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Jenni Spinner's Simpsons Avatar

"The Simpsons Movie" is the latest in the field of TV-program-turned-movie titles (i.e. the Star Trek series, The Fugitive, etc.), bringing the shows we love as couch potatoes onto the big screen. Those flicks and this beg the question: why pay to see something you can watch for nothing? In fact, Homer himself stands up and yells with righteous indignation at a showing of the latest Itchy & Scratchy movie, "What kind of sucker pays for something he can watch for free?"

The answer: the kind of sucker that's turned to watch in the trials and tribulations of America's favorite yellow clan for nearly 18 years. There's millions of such suckers—I'm one of them—and for good reason. The Simpsons is the funniest show that's ever graced the boob tube. Oh, yeah, I said it. God bless Ms. Ball and Mr. Gleason, but I would sooner grab a plateful of doughnuts and a six-pack of Duff beer and hunker down for a Simpsons marathon than watch I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners any day of the week. The show for nearly two decades has delivered razor-sharp writing, pants-peeing humor, on-the-money political satire, and consistently excellent performances, with no sign of losing steam. Not even Jerry Seinfeld can make that claim. So, we're grateful enough to Matt Groening's brainchild for keeping us entertained for such an impressive stretch, that we're willing pry ourselves off of our couches to fork over $10 and see an 85-minute version of a program we take in gratis each week—or, if you watch the reruns as religiously as most Simpsons fans, every day.

At the onset of the movie, Lake Springfield is a smelly, polluted mess. Lisa leads the charge to clean up the body of water, enlisting the help of Irish emigrant cutie Colin. When Mayor Quimby brings his gavel down and okays her plan, everyone in the town gets behind the effort, picking up garbage, dredging the body of water, installing Jersey barriers to prevent polluters from returning to the lake. Everything looks perfect, until one Springfield denizen mucks up the works—and anyone that's seen the TV show even once could probably guess who that someone is.

Homer's newly adopted pet porker Spiderpig produces an amazing amount of solid waste. When the containment silo Homer builds overflows and leaks pig poo into the yard, Marge pleads with him to dispatch the dung. Any sane, reasonable person would take it to a proper disposal facility—but of course, Homer is not sane or reasonable. Immediately upon dumping, the lake returns to its previous noxious state. The Environmental Protection Agency reacts by encasing the town in an impermeable dome, so as to not contaminate the outside world. Homer's latest "whoops" alienates his family and puts the whole town against him, and things under the dome soon go horribly awry in an apocalyptic sort of way. Eventually, the EPA administrator decides to eradicate the problem completely by turning Springfield into a crater.

Does Homer save Springfield and reunite with his family? Does Apu live to continue hawking Squishees and Buzz Cola at the Kwik-E-Mart? You can guess, but you might be wrong?remember, all the characters have been killed off before dozens of time, mostly in the Treehouse of Horror special episodes that run every Halloween. As the Simpsons have shown us since the late 1980s, there's a lot more room for surprises when your show has a cast that's not live, but drawn—and that's one of the reasons The Simpsons keeps drawing us in.

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