Sunday, November 23, 2008

Itchy and Scratchy (from the Simpsons Movie)

Itchy and Scratchy (from The Simpsons Movie)
Directed by David Silverman, United States, 2007, running time 2:24
20th Century Fox

This short comes at the beginning of the highly anticipated Simpsons Movie. The Simpsons television show had been around for many years before this and though there were previous talks about making a movie, they never panned out, until this. With a cult following surrounding the television show, there were a lot of expectations seeing these characters on the big screen for the first time. Ironically the first images we see are not the Simpsons themselves. Instead the movie opens with an Itchy and Scratchy short film.

For an epic movie release, the filmmakers decided to open with an epic feat: a moon landing. Dramatic music paired with dramatic visuals sucks the audience in right away. Just as Itchy and Scratchy are about to claim the moon in peace, Itchy (the mouse) uses the flag to stab Scratchy (the cat) in the chest repeatedly before hitting and breaking his astronaut helmet causing his eye to bulge and seemingly die. Itchy returns to Earth and is framed as a hero. He “did everything he could to save cat” and eventually runs for President with Hillary Clinton and wins. While in office he looks up at the moon and panics. He sees the cat, who is still alive, hold up a sign that reads “I’m telling.” After a bit of Nixon-esqe worrying, pacing, and thinking he has an idea. He moves painting to reveal the nuclear missile control board, sets it to “accidental launch”, and presses the button that sends countless nukes towards the moon. The cat panics and when he screams all of the missiles except one enter his body making him bigger than the moon itself. Then the last war head stops in front of him, and opens its front to let a small boot kick him causing a huge nuclear explosion. As the spectacle of the short sets in we hear Homer booing the short and he address the fictitious movie theater saying, “I can’t believe you paying to something you get on TV for free, everyone here is a giant sucker,” and then he looks directly into the camera, “especially you.” Then the familiar Simpsons title sequence begins.

This is a welcome treat for Simpsons fans and serves as a great opening for the film. It is very cinematic and sets up an epic frame that is immediately destroyed which lets the audience know that it will be the same old Simpsons. Also, I look at this a masterful pivot point into a movie that has so much expectations and fan fare. I think it would be impossible to start the movie with the title sequence like the television show. This separates it as a movie event, and acts as a sort of ice breaker for the audience. This serves as an interesting parallel when held up to Warner Brothers’ playing of Looney Tunes before features in the past. Although it’s not exactly the same, because Itchy and Scratchy are in the show and the short isn’t held up as its own entity, it works in a similar vein. It is a source of small non-linear laughs that engage the audience.

The humor is classic. Think of it as Tom and Jerry on steroids. It is basically the escalation from one physical gag to another. It starts with an unprovoked physical attack and ends in blowing up the moon with nuclear weapons. Of course, being the Simpsons, there are pop-culture references that make us laugh. When Itchy runs for office he runs with Hillary Clinton, which is a quick, simple, and contemporary bit of humor. They then hold is in suspense before the ultimate gag, the explosion. Also, during the landing, the juxtaposition of the calmness and epic nature associated with going to the moon and the unprovoked and over the top physical violence provides a great source of laughs. Overall, this short is entertaining in and of itself, but it also serves the greater good of the feature in which it resides.


Anonymous said...

Love itchy and scratchy, and the simpsons, great short!

Zac said...

such a good short, 10 years the Simpsons is still one of the best shows on tv.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post on a socially popular film. Excellent analysis and great story.