Christine and I caught The Simpsons Movie this past weekend, and it more than surpassed our expectations. Every scene is packed with jokes; I probably missed some of them because I was still laughing at the last one. Doing a big screen version of a television show that is still on the air is always a dicey proposition; you have to justify asking people to pay for something that they normally get for free. The movie succeeds on this front by amping up everything: the humor, the animation, and the storyline. I don’t want to give too much away, but the main plot concerns Homer inadvertently causing an environmental disaster by dumping his new pet pig’s waste into the town’s already overly contaminated lake. The EPA quarantines the entire city, and a lynch mob comes looking for Homer’s blood. The family escapes and attempts to forge a new life in the wilds of Alaska. When they learn that the sleazy head of the EPA has convinced President Schwarzenegger (you read that right) to bomb Springfield off of the map, they return to try to save their town. Other subplots include Bart’s yearning for his father’s unconditional love, Lisa finding the love of her life, and Homer going on a vision quest. Hilarity ensues. I cannot remember the last time I left a movie theatre with my abdomen sore and tears rolling down my face from laughing so hard. If you are concerned about the satirical shots that the show sometimes takes at organized religion, relax. The Simpsons has always been an equal-opportunity offender, satirizing everything on the scale from right to left and back again. And you know what? There is plenty about modern religion that merits satire.
On Saturday, we were set to go to a birthday party that got cancelled at the last minute due to the guest of honor’s illness. At about the same time I was invited by some guys to go see Rescue Dawn with them. Since Christine does not dig on war movies, I took the opportunity. This is a very good film. It tells the true story of Dieter Dengler (played by Christian Bale), a naval pilot who was shot down over Laos in 1966. After being captured by enemy forces, Dengler spent five months in a POW camp, enduring starvation, random beatings, and worse. The film shows the careful escape that Dengler began to plan immediately after his arrival in camp, his 23 day flight through the jungles of Laos (without food, potable water, or shoes), and eventual rescue. It is harrowing, nerve-wracking stuff. Bale, now known for his portrayal of the title character in the excellent Batman Begins, delivers the goods as always. Steve Zahn, who typically plays goofballs, is also excellent as one of Dieter’s fellow prisoners.
John Dobbs has a link on his excellent blog to this thoughtful essay on the potential costs, to individuals and communities, of using free speech arguments to protect pornography. The author discusses the increasing sexual obsessiveness of our society, the sexualization of children and adolescents, and the destructive capacity of the bizarre porn that the internet makes available to any household. It merits a read and consideration.