Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Movie Trailers XXIV

Sorry about that last post. Honestly, I'm bored by it too. Let's just forget about it and get back on the horse. The blogging horse. The bloggy horse. Sounds like hobby horse? Get it? No? Not having it, I see. Fair enough. This could take a few tries.

Movie trailers? That's a comfortable topic.

The Simpsons Movie finally has a real trailer up, one that doesn't use the annoying CGI happy bunny fake-out that just feels like so much filler and which, as Steve has pointed out, was too similar to the old South Park movie teaser anyway. It's still basically a teaser, but it's got actual footage in it, so we can see what the movie will look like.

The jokes are fine. Not noticeably above and beyond what you'd see in the series, but not embarrassing and certainly funny enough. Smithers' silent reaction to Apu telling Burns to listen to his heart is a highlight, as are Homer's contorted air quotes.

What this teaser does get across is the look and scope of the movie. The animation looks great--extra fluid, with dramatic shading and lighting effects for good measure. Honestly, the high quality animation makes a bigger difference than I'd expect. Meanwhile, the story is still up in the air, but it certainly looks like something big is going down. Considering that one of the most glaring problems with the series for the past few years has been that there don't seem to be any stories left that matter to anyone--the characters, the viewers, or the creators--a Simpsons story with actual stakes would be a big deal indeed.

Some advance blurb I read claimed that the story had to do with Homer destroying Springfield, an idea that has been tossed off as a joke in a few episodes already. I'm thinking of the garbage man episode, in which the entire town must relocate, and the episode where Homer is an artist and floods the city as a work of art, and no one seems to mind. So even with an idea that big, they've got their work cut out for them trying to make us care. But it's all in the execution. For the past few seasons of the show, they haven't even been trying to make us invest in stories.

Again, though, there's some relatively spectacular visuals at work (for the Simpsons)--the house crumbling looks pretty cool. Don't slow down that sweeping shot through the townspeople with torches, though, or you'll actually see the pixels.

Anyway, it's nice to have a substantive teaser at last. I can say now that it looks like it'll at least be worth seeing.

Mr. Woodcock has the unfortunate honor of hanging its title on a name joke so lame it wore itself out in the pilot of 'Til Death, in which it was the name of Eddie Kaye Thomas' naive schoolteacher. (Luckily, who remembers that?) Here, though, the name is given to a hardass, not a patsy, and its naughty implications carry the thrust of masculine aggression rather than a vulnerable opening for humiliation. It's also stuck with Billy Bob Thornton being pretty much the same guy he was in Bad Santa, Bad News Bears, and especially School for Scoundrels. It's a credit to Thornton that he plays this character so effortlessly that you almost wish these were movies you wanted to see. Although, is it me, or does he look a little too Botox-y in this one?

And then there is Sean William Scott. Here is another way in which the comparison to School for Scoundrels is apt. Scott, like School's Jon Heder, is an actor who shot to fame in a distinctive role for which he will forever be typecast. He has since taken roles in a variety of movies unsuccessfully trying to establish a career that stands on its own. Like Heder, I find Scott likable, and I'm rooting for him, but with each film he does it becomes less and less likely that he's going to pull off the transformation he's hoping for. In fact, I thought Scott had already run out of chances, but lo, here he is again.

Unlike Scott's past characters, he is here cast in that increasingly popular archetype, the former fat loser turned cool successful person (see Ryan Reynolds in Just Friends; one of the characters in ABC's unwatched and unheard-of David Arquette sitcom In Case of Emergency--in which the character also becomes a self-help guru; or Courtney Cox in Friends--arguably the one that started it all). I find this character type pretty annoying, for a few reasons: It's usually just an excuse for an attractive skinny person to score cheap laughs by cavorting in a fat suit, and I just don't buy it--especially in the cases where the character's fat incarnation is especially morbidly obese, as they almost invariably are. How often does a transformation like this actually happen? Much more likely that a trim cool guy grows up to be a fat loser. It's also a hypocritical bid for sympathy from the audience--no one likes a good-looking winner, so let's say they used to be fat so we feel bad for them at the same time we're making fun of them for being fat.

Mr. Woodcock gets points for at least having the decency to not go the fat suit route. Young Scott is played by an actual kid, and he's not super fat, just pudgy and out of shape. And the former loser, as common a character as it is, remains one that Scott has not played before. It's an opportunity to play to his strength--comedy--without playing a character who's a walking punchline. We don't seem much of his performance in the trailer, but what we do get is promising. Ethan Suplee and Amy Poehler are pluses as well. The main problem is that ultimately, the whole movie is one big I'm-fucking-your-mom joke, and much like the scene where Scott is caught under the bed while Woodcock and his mom do it, it'll be hard for the movie to get out from under that.



lyan! said...

Label: Movies

matt said...

Let's play "Spot the jokes and/or plotlines in the Simpsons movie trailer lifted directly from previous episodes of the Simpons"!

Here are just a few I can remember off the top of my head, having watched the trailer about an hour and a half ago before leaving for work:

1. Release the hounds
2. Springfield's impossible geography
3. Public cartoon nudity
4. Bart Flanders
5. Angry mob
6. Homer interacting humorously with wacky primitive bone-in-the-nose natives
7. "Oh my God, we have so many characters."

They should add a "20% new material" disclaimer like in the Itchy & Scratchy Movie episode.

People like me, who've given up on the Simpsons, clearly aren't the target audience for this movie. They're stringing together a bunch of worn-out inside jokes to rally the faithful.

Kenny said...

Yeah, I know, I just decided my tags should be pretentious.

Kevin said...

Do you TRUST the Simpsons Writers with new material?

I'm treating this movie as an extended, relaxed homage to the series. A kind of 'best of,' if you will. And in that respect, it looks pretty good. They also appear to destroy the entire Simpson house, which is a good sign.

PS: You forgot the jump over the Springfield Gorge.

My wedding is on 7/28. This comes out on 7/27. Harry Potter comes out the week prior. It's like the Nerd World is embarking on one last ditch effort to KEEP ME SINGLE.