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D'OH AT LAST, THE SIMPSONS HAVE IT NAILED.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Writer

Counting the days when Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa appeared in cartoon shorts on ``The Tracey Ullman Show,'' ``The Simpsons'' has been on television - free of charge - for nearly 20 years.

So it's easy to understand why series creators Matt Groening and James L. Brooks are reluctant to reveal much about ``The Simpsons Movie,'' due in theaters this July. They've got to give fans some reason to shell out $10 for a ticket.

``I will say this 7/8 we have things in the movie that you can't do on TV,'' Groening says. ``There may be some nudity. It may be people you want to see naked. It may be people you don't want to see naked. But you will see things that you've never seen before.''

As the mind reels at Groening's minor-key revelation (a full-frontal Comic Book Man 7/8 good God, no!), it should be noted that ``The Simpsons Movie'' will be rated PG-13 (``we hope,'' Groening jokes), feature every character in Springfield's vast universe (right down to Itchy & Scratchy and the Bumblebee Man) and attempt to strike a balance between Homer's slapstick stupidity and character-based comedy.

First impressions

If you were simply to go by the trailers and the early, unfinished snippets of footage screened at Comic-Con last summer, you'd guess that the movie leans heavily on Homer gags.

(Groening does confirm that the guest cast will include Albert Brooks, along with ``a couple of nice surprises.'')

In one scene, Homer is chased by an angry mob including Dr. Hibbert, who screams, ``I'll kill you, you son of a bitch!''

Another clip, featured on the recently released ``The Simpsons Complete Ninth Season'' DVD set, has Marge demanding that Homer get rid of a giant silo of pig waste found in their backyard.

Might the town's anger at Homer have something to do with his method of pig waste disposal?

``We've put out some phony stories,'' Brooks says. ``It used to be that comedies never put their best jokes in trailers. Now, as marketing has become king, you start the trailer with your best joke. We're trying to strike a balance between the two.''

Adds Groening: ``But don't take the pig waste disposal thing lightly. You botch that and it could really put a crimp in someone's day.''

What's the rush?

The creative team behind ``The Simpsons'' has been batting around the movie ideas since 1992, when thought was given to lengthening the ``Kamp Krusty'' episode into a feature-length film. But producing the television show - a year-round enterprise - precluded any kind of concerted follow-through.

Another factor: Fox wanted a say in the movie's creation. Once they let go, Brooks says, the movie began to move forward - and fast. Groening describes the initial meeting of an all-star group of ``Simpsons'' writers, where the basic plot was hatched - in two hours.

``Of course, that was preceded by 15 years of getting around to it,'' Groening says.

Are they a few years too late? It's a question asked by many longtime fans who believe the show, now in its 18th season and set to air its 400th episode in May, has lost its way, not to mention its originality.

Adam Wolf, who maintains the ``Simpsons'' Web site ``Last Exit to Springfield'' (www.lardlad.com), doubts the movie can ``recapture the magic of the early to mid years.''

``The show is completely different now,'' Wolf says. ``To return to the glory years now would be a feat nothing short of amazing, but would also pose the question as to why every show couldn't be as good as the movie.''

Wolf's beefs: Too many gags at the expense of story, too much Homer (which goes hand-in-hand with the first complaint, because Homer is usually the source/butt of the show's slapstick).

To which ``Simpsons'' vet Al Jean, who has been the show runner since season 13, answers: ``To take people by surprise after 18 years is hard. But, the truth is, I've been dealing with that feeling since season 2. It's not new.''

Adds Groening: ``Is every episode the best one we've ever done? No. But we're still consistently funny and surprising.''

The heat's on

Are the fans' expectations getting to these guys? Jean said last year that if he was feeling any more pressure, he'd be a diamond.

Brooks says the writers - there are 11 credited - cared so much at the outset, it took everyone a year to ``feel like we didn't give a (rip).''

``You needed a loose spirit to make this movie,'' Brooks says. ``We got it, but it took a year.

``The great thing about `The Simpsons,' '' he adds, ``is that you can go in a lot of different directions - low comedy, high comedy, romantic comedy, action - and have them all work in the same movie. Different people laugh at different things. I think the movie covers all the bases.''

``I'd be disappointed if people don't feel some real emotions,'' Groening says. ``But I'd be disappointed if I didn't see something large and heavy pummeling Homer, too.''

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672

glenn.whipp@dailynews.com

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(color) ``The Simpsons Movie'' opens July 27.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 21, 2007
Words:863
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