advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Sunday, July 29, 2007

We Review "The Simpsons Movie", Or, Bulbous Buffoon Boffo at Box Office

Author’s Notes: There will be no “spoilers” in this story.
The author is not associated with any part of the movie, and was not provided tickets or any other incentive.

Your friendly fake consultant is an openly admitted “Simpsons” geek.

Much to The Girlfriend’s chagrin, I can spend a ridiculous amount of time watching episodes of the show on DVD-and then watching them again, just for the commentaries (and many thanks to Conan O’Brien for participating in my favorite commentary ever).

For those not familiar (is that possible?) the Simpsons are a family from Springfield who have engaged in an exhausting variety of adventures over the past 20 years.

Homer has been an astronaut, a bootlegger, the manager of an outsourced Indian nuclear power plant, and was once required to run up both World Trade Center towers to use the restroom. His wife, Marge, was once Springfield’s only competent police officer.

The kids? Maggie turned out to be the role Elizabeth Taylor was born to play, and Bart was/will be impaled upon Lisa’s Pulitzer Prize one day in the past/future.

The neighbors? These three: super do-gooder Ned Flanders, Moe Szyslak (owner of Moe’s Tavern, and the victim of Bart’s crank calls), and Ted Kenned...sorry, Mayor Quimby (“It's time we face up to the unface-up-to-able”) are just the tip of the Springfield iceberg, and the opening montage of the show pans across a group of about 80 or so of them; which can be seen if you’re inclined to use the “single-frame advance” function of your DVD player to its best advantage.

Having introduced the players, let’s talk about the hype.

In other circumstances, a film will seek some marketing tie-ins, and the characters might even be associated with some products, in an effort to create more “name recognition” for the associated entities.

This is not without precedent, as the TV show’s producers also experimented with, and have actually released, a small number of character-related products over the years.

The Simpsons Movie tie-ins are neatly catalogued by Rohit Bhargava’s “Influential Marketing Blog”, and I heard they even ran a few TV ads to promote the movie, but that may just be a rumor.

Despite the underground and secretive nature of the movie’s release, your friendly fake consultant was able to locate a midnight screening of the film at Paul Allen’s Cinerama Theatre (super cushy chairs...mmmmmmmm) in Seattle on Thursday night/Friday morning.

All kidding aside, there were no obvious promotional efforts underway outside the event itself. No costumed Homer-headed individuals were to be seen; no, not even a Marge wig amongst the audience of 800 or so. The lobby was not decorated, no radio station was broadcasting live, and even the snack bar was operating sans doughnuts.

Nonetheless, the crowd was obviously in the mood, and it was clear they were ready to enjoy the movie-or to burn down the theatre if things should turn out badly.

As a complete “Simpsons” geek, I forced The Girlfriend not just to attend, but to sit right down front (4th row). She was not exactly amused, but she knows how bad I am, and she kindly went along to provide support.

So, does the movie stand up to the hype?

Very much so.

To put it another way, you absolutely do not see all the best parts in the commercials.

There are very few moments that are not funny; and there are many jokes that are funny in the way that “old school” cartoons are funny-jokes that are funny on different levels for kids, teenagers, and adults. One example is a Richard Nixon reference that older audience members found funny, but the small flock of 13 year-olds next to us did not.

In the commentaries that accompany the show’s DVDs, the “show runners” discuss the process of audience testing that is used to “tighten up” a show...basically a process of showing the existing version of the effort to test audiences, watching the reaction, removing the parts where no one laughs, and replacing it with something that does get the audience laughing.

This process was clearly used to great effect-I lost count, but at least 25 times I was laughing with surprise at something a Springfieldadinian (or whatever they’re called) was up to.

And the real test...the next day, The Girlfriend was spontaneously telling people how much she enjoyed the film-something I never expected.

The larger world seems to be enjoying the movie as well-it is reported that the film is grossing higher than predicted, and the most optimistic estimates suggest grosses could surpass the $70 million production cost before Monday.

Additionally, as with the best of the show’s episodes, there are so many inside jokes, frame-by-frame “click throughs”, and obscure movie references that DVD sales will be brisk-and I’m predicting here that a soundtrack-matching “Pink Doughnut” version of the DVD will be available for Christmas release.

To wrap it all up: having had a couple of days to let it sink in, I would heartily recommend the film for the most fervent of “Simpsons” geeks-and for humans, too! Find the largest screen you can, and if you let the kids watch the TV show, take ‘em along-they’ll hear a couple dirty words, and see one “naughty” visual image, but it’ll be OK.

And now for the official rating:

On a scale of $2.99 (if I found it somewhere, used) to retail, I would pay at least $12.99 for the DVD, and if it was in cool limited-edition packaging, I might even pay retail.

And that’s the same rating I would give “Sicko”, which means, for my money, these have been the best two films of the year so far.


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Shades said...

(Nail the spam)

I enjoyed it as well, although it wasn't funny all the way through.

The Bart skateboarding and Maggies first words were priceless.

fake consultant said...

regarding the blair hill comment:

i'm always thrilled to have readers comment, but it does concern me to be used as a tool of advertising, against my will.

to be fair to the writer, i took a minute to see what legitamacy might exist regarding the writer's line of work, and i found this advice from the united states federal trade commission:

Credit Repair: Self Help May Be Best

You see the advertisements in newspapers, on TV, and on the Internet. You hear them on the radio. You get fliers in the mail. You may even get calls from telemarketers offering credit repair services. They all make the same claims:

“Credit problems? No problem!”

“We can erase your bad credit — 100% guaranteed.”

“Create a new credit identity — legally.”

“We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!”

Do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these statements. Only time, a conscious effort, and a personal debt repayment plan will improve your credit report.

This brochure explains how you can improve your creditworthiness and gives legitimate resources for low or no-cost help.

The Scam

Everyday, companies nationwide appeal to consumers with poor credit histories. They promise, for a fee, to clean up your credit report so you can get a car loan, a home mortgage, insurance, or even a job.

The truth is, they can’t deliver.

After you pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees, these companies do nothing to improve your credit report; most simply vanish with your money.

The Warning Signs

If you decide to respond to a credit repair offer, look for these tell-tale signs of a scam:

companies that want you to pay for credit repair services before they provide any services.

companies that do not tell you your legal rights and what you can do for yourself for free.

companies that recommend that you not contact a credit reporting company directly.

companies that suggest that you try to invent a “new” credit identity — and then, a new credit report — by applying for an Employer Identification Number to use instead of your Social Security number.

companies that advise you to dispute all information in your credit report or take any action that seems illegal, like creating a new credit identity. If you follow illegal advice and commit fraud, you may be subject to prosecution.

You could be charged and prosecuted for mail or wire fraud if you use the mail or telephone to apply for credit and provide false information.

It’s a federal crime to lie on a loan or credit application, to misrepresent your Social Security number, and to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretenses.

Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay until they have completed the services they have promised.

The Truth

No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. There is no charge for this. Everything a credit repair clinic can do for you legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost.

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA):

You’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

Each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

The three companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, click on, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the form from .

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time.

For more information, see Your Access to Free Credit Reports at .

Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.

You can dispute mistakes or outdated items for free. Under the FCRA, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.

To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider.

this seems like excellent advice, and i would encourage anyone who is considering "alternative" credit repair to look deeper-especially if the service is looking for you to give them money.

fake consultant said...

it is unusual to correspond with a meteor, but always a happy experience when the chance comes up.

i don't want to give away too much, but it is well worth staying for the credits-and i could not help but think of austin powers during bart's skateboarding scene.