"Simpsons" video review.
Since learning that popular vote would determine which American Springfield would host the premiere of “The Simpsons Movie,” I figured we’d lose out. As far as population goes, I don’t think we have the numbers.
Sorry to say it, but our short-film plea — posted Sunday on USA Today’s Web site, along with those of all the other Springfields competing — probably isn’t going to sway the undecided or neutral.
In watching ours twice, the only thing that made me laugh out loud was either a beautiful coincidence or a well-coached kid: Asked “Who is that?” as someone points to Homer, he answers “Daddy!” Otherwise, it’s only a so-so production, with a head-smacking waste of CWLP general manager Todd Renfrow’s resemblance to Montgomery Burns.
Only in the last 90 seconds does the video seem to take on some sort of wild fictional plot — that Renfrow, in a nefarious move that would do Mr. Burns proud, is polluting Lake Springfield with “Simpsons Spirit.” That would have been a perfect idea, akin to a real “Simpsons” story, cast with characters and packed into five minutes. Don Hickman still could have shown up as a Kent Brockman figure somewhere in there. Instead, he’s almost the whole show.
Hickman hosts “I Am Springfield,” which, like most newscasts with a ticker, has a bit too much visual overload. The crawl runs with connections of “The Simpsons” to our Springfield, alongside a color-coded meter of “Simpsons Spirit.”
My first thought: Why does the meter go to “guarded” just as Hickman says we’re the true Springfield? Hey, if we’re not 100 percent, then the terrorists have won. Or at least another state.
Zac “Comic Book Guy” Atchison doesn’t attempt to sound like the actual Comic Book Guy. (Oh, and it’s pronounced “Apu,” not “Abu.” That’s the monkey from “Aladdin.”) Mayor Tim Davlin does his sash-wearing thing in London, soliciting Britons to namecheck Illinois. It’s nice to show residents resembling characters, but the camera’s too far away to sell it.
With the arrival of “Conspiracy Guy,” the video takes a sort of comic “Soylent Green” turn in connection with Renfrow’s plot. (Another mispronunciation: It’s “Groening,” like complaining.
Our video isn’t terrible, but it’s not very funny, either. There’s a great idea in there, but the approach just wasn’t right. At least not to me.
On the other hand, a lot of the other Springfields’ efforts were a lot worse. I put ours about sixth in quality.
OREGON: Sid Leikert has a far better time sending up his image a la Mayor Quimby than Tim Davlin, what with the wandering eye and bodyguard angle here. Gratuitous Celebrity Use comes from Tony Hawk, and the gimmick is “In Search Of.” I’d put it fifth.
COLORADO: Awful. It’s called wind. Don’t film in it. Don’t fade out every 12 seconds. Napoleon Dynamite has nothing to do with this. Try not to cut off the last line of the film.
NEBRASKA: This arguably has the most references (Mr. Sparkle, anybody?), a sly little piracy jab, and it’s great when the beer drinkers chant “Wholesome!” as the cans zoom in on their Duff beers. Although it’s a product of the town’s “flim” company, this one made me laugh quite a bit. Probably my second favorite.
MISSOURI: One of a couple of videos that went the ironically anti-“Simpsons” route, but this one doesn’t quite get there. It has probably the best joke, though, about mispronunciation of Groening, and the newscast bit at the end — about how the scheme backfires — is the best of many, many Brockman-type references.
LOUISIANA: The citizens paint themselves yellow, which shows dedication, and the police chief seems awfully good-natured about making fun of himself. Fitfully funny in parts.
FLORIDA: It’s uncool to turn a contest into a contest. (The video has no sound and invites viewers to create their own online.) And two minutes of credits is ridiculous. Lame.
TENNESSEE: The better of the ironically anti-“Simpsons” takes because it has the right sense of sight gags and puns, plus convincing Barney and Chief Wiggum figures. If only the city managers had let themselves in on the joke as these folks do here. The other problem is its overly abrupt ending. This one is my third favorite.
KENTUCKY: The court trial aspect lost me very early on, and it isn’t very funny. The musical interlude of “Guilty” is bizarre. Gratuitous Celebrity Use comes from DJ Rick Dees, who even used his canned clapping. Weak.
OHIO: “Not since Conan left” might be the funniest inside-baseball line of the lot, and this conference-table meeting about how to approach this project starts off well. Then it turns into a wretched, jokey behind-the-scenes look at the film rather than the film itself.
MICHIGAN: A better spin on the idea that Matt Groening stopped through a town and took inspiration. It looks at the “Sampson” family 20 years down the road. Lisa’s bit as a waitress had me laughing, as it sounded like a dissertation from Bovine University. The thought that Bart is the mayor (with Milhouse as his assistant) is a clever touch as well. Sincere, funny and featuring Abraham “Sampson,” this was my favorite one of all.
VERMONT: The closest thing to capsulizing a “Simpsons”-esque story in five minutes finds Homer chasing a gigantic doughnut as it rolls through town, disrupting Bart’s softball glory and, eventually, turning the whole town against him with pitchforks at the ready. It’s got a fizzle of an ending, but it’s a nice idea. It comes in fourth.
NEW JERSEY: This one has no idea what it wants to be. It’s the second to have a piracy reference (although not nearly as clever as Nebraska’s), There’s a kid who looks nothing like Bart Simpson purporting to be Bart Simpson. And the entry eventually turns into a woeful music video for some band called Double Deuce.
MASSACHUSETTS: Supposedly the biggest gun, and it does have the best production values. The opening to “Perfect Vision” is appropriately “Simpsons” in tone, but the video disintegrates from there into a version of what Michigan did better without the Gratuitous Celebrity Use of Ted Kennedy and June Foray.
Just when I thought we might have gotten away without Gratuitous Celebrity Use: Does Abraham Lincoln count?
Nick Rogers can be reached at (217) 747-9587 or email@example.com. Read his blog, Unpainted Huffhines, at blogs.sj-r.com/unpaintedhuffhines.