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In Which I Watched Two Movies in One Night

August 1st, 2007 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

First up, The Simpsons: The Movie. Typically irreverent, cheeky and at points bizarre. Unlike Serenity, the writers for the Simpsons managed to transfer the show from TV to movie without suffering too great a loss.

What is dangerous about the Simpsons, though, and this movie in particular, is the universality of their scorn. No one is safe from ridicule--not the Church, not the government, not the audience or the filmmaker. In some ways, the egalitarian nature of their humor is comforting--the writers lack, it seems, an agenda that is broader than making fun of everyone.

But on the other hand, I worry that too much of the Simpsons can cause me to see everything as an object to be ridiculed. The world becomes the playground for my wit, and my wit is then employed not as a flashlight, illumining reality, but as a dagger.  Satire certainly has a place, but I wonder whether the satire of the Simpsons is more toxic than that of Swift.

On a whim, I bought a ticket to the refreshing Ratatouille. While the CGI was stunning, the story carried its own weight. Occasionally, a story and characters manage to be engaging, edifying and entertaining without necessarily being funny. Ratatoullie perched itself delicately into this category.

What impressed me most about the film, though, was its ending.  Ratatouille's makers exemplified remarkable restraint at making the ending consistent with the narrative, bringing the movie to a fitting and appropriately stirring close.  They managed to evoke just enough emotion to leave the audience pleased, yet not quite sure why.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.