This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 27 Episode 20.
The Simpsons venture abroad in “To Courier with Love” because it’s mother’s day and all they actually brought home this year was laundry. The last time one of the Simpsons went to France, it was a punishment for Bart, who was abused, misused and confused by two incorrigibles who committed the sin of adding anti-freeze to wine. But France has come a long way and it is populated by a vast array of personalities. Yet, the local incorrigibles remain the same.
Not exactly the same of course. When we first met our two felonious friends they were quite nice to animals, now they are in the wretched business of slaughtering defenseless animals for fashion and that’s is something the legacy of The Simpsons will not allow. It doesn’t matter how much fine Chablis they use to dampen the shock of an alligator purse.
The setup is that Homer to deliver a mysterious briefcase to France without looking inside it in exchange for a free trip to Paris. He does this because Marge has been feeling the neglect of the overworked and under-appreciated and the marriage is coming apart like the European Union. Of course, Homer can’t help but look inside and Lisa can’t help but catch him. Marge gripes that she never has any adventures, but Homer and Lisa still wind up doing the adventuring. Marge would have enjoyed a little Parisian intrigue with her bouillabaisse.
It’s not really Homer’s fault Marge doesn’t get any excitement in her life. It’s been that way since the Dawn of Time. Or at least since a few weeks ago when Lisa discovered her mom had extremely middle of the road taste. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise then, as the Simpsons were created, according to their Behind the Music Special, by a creative family team whose favorite shows were “Hollywood Hogwash,” “The Dreck Squad,””Dumbin’ it Down” and Home Improvement.
This week Marge plays into that All-American mediocrity with her pronunciations and the places that most excite her in France to visit. Altough, she does surprise us at first when she remembers Paris as the birthplace of existentialism. Everyone in the Simpson family finds exactly what they want in Paris. Bart gets to prank Vogue models, Lisa gets to sit in with a jazz combo, and Homer gets to be distracted by suspense and a chase that goes nowhere. Kind of like a Chubby dude in a tiny car. It makes for a great song, at least for a line or two. But then it goes on a little too long and you realize it wasn’t as funny as you thought it was.
Usually, you have to read between the lines on The Simpsons. The jokes very often sandwich a subversive comment between a double meaning and an entendre, but tonight with all the social commentary that can fit between the ink, there’s nothing but white space. A lot of this is because the Simpsons have gotten a little too respectful. There are jokes. They come pretty quickly and most of them score, but there aren’t too many jokes inside the jokes, a gift The Simpsons used to sprinkle liberally.
The Jay Leno cameo was a high point. The former Tonight Show host is well known for favoring classic cars, especially if they are rare. And he’s well known as a rich guy who’d pay anything to get his hand on some neglected bucket of spark plugs and chassis. The set up was very real, almost believable. We could see him paying Homer just to lock it away. Leno seems like the kind of guy who actually likes to get under hood and tinker. The twist, though, that he had been entirely clueless about new cars his entire life is perfectly unexpected.
The Simpsons throw a new curve into a joke from the screwball comedy Who Fed Roger Eber– I mean, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It is one of the first rules of cartoon comedy: if anyone, and that means anyone, hums, knocks or tap dances first opening phrase of “Shave and a Haircut,” any animated creature within earshot is obligated to complete the phrase. Tonight, the French know that the best way to flush out an American in Paris is to say, tauntingly, “Marco.” An American, especially an animated one drawn in the United States, must reply “Polo.” Except some republicans who still say Rubio.
Oh and the bit about Homer saying he’d sell the car as long as no questions are asked and shutting Leno down when he asks how much is classic comedy. The Michelin tire guys joke and the sight gag about Maggie’s bonnet were quick and relatively obscure enough for a giggle. I liked seeing that the Simpsons still keep the big ugly head of Xtapolapocetl sitting around. It comforts me to see the references to older episodes.
Like a chubby duded in a tiny car, The Simpsons’ “To Courier with Love” is funny but really doesn’t go anywhere. Yeah, they go to Paris. But it’s not like the Simpsons never get out of Springfield. This is their second trip to France, thought their first as a family. They’ve been to Italy, China, Australia, New York, Malibu, Itchy and Scratchy Land. They went to space a couple of times, including an aborted trip. But usually there’s a huge but at the end of the trip, even if it’s only a big boot primed to kick that big butt because of some international incident. The difference here is that the Simpsons seem to have had a very nice time. And we wanted to see them deported.
“To Courier with Love” was written by Bill Odenkirk and directed by Timothy Bailey. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson and Nelson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Pamela Hayden plays Millhouse.
Chalkboard: Dirty clothes are not a Mother’s Day gift.
But It All Went By So Fast: Very well, I’ll assent to your terms, but given your history of recidivism, please give me your every assurance that this is just a temporary arrangement. Clean out garage. Send Provoke war between wasps and hornets. Check to laminator. Nag Nag Nag. We can get back those water bottles the TSA took. Visit Capital City. Fifth Street and Zero Ave. Springfield Air. Hong Kong. Keflavik.