Exactly. Eighteen years in the making, we get a pretty funny 86-minute Simpsons episode. Not Season 4 funny, not even Season 8 funny, but not bad. But, honestly, it’s nothing special.
On the plus side, there are less celebrity guest stars than your average current episode — I counted only three, one of whom provides the movie’s biggest laughs. (It’s not Green Day.) Another, frequent guest voice Albert Brooks (Brad Goodman, Hank Scorpio, Bowling instructor Jacques), is funny as always as an EPA brass who is the defacto villain.
But the story — Homer messes up with catastrophic results — although grander in scope, is basically one we’ve seen dozens of times before. The biggest flaw for me, and David Poland of Movie City News also pointed this out, is that the writers pull much of the story out of Springfield and alway from the townsfolk. Mr. Burns and Smithers get a very, very short scene. Krusty gets maybe two lines. So does Moe. Principal Skinner gets one line. Lenny gets one line. Carl gets one line. Willy… nothing! None of them, apart from Flanders, is really intrinsic to the story. Maybe this is what happens on episodes these days — I stopped watching regularly about six years ago.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone knew how to take a TV show and turn it into something bigger, wilder, funnier for the Big Screen. I think The Simpsons Movie was over-thought, with the edges dulled and the schmaltz factor upped. (Blame James L. Brooks for that.) One of my complaints of later Simpsons seasons was that they took away the heart, which made episodes like "Maggie Makes Three" so good. But on TV they only get 20 seconds of sentiment, but here you get long scenes of introspection. Again, it’s in now way bad. Just disappointing. I guess. It’ll probably play better on TV.