Homer's where the heart is

A guide to the in-jokes in 'The Simpsons Movie'

Sunday, July 29th 2007, 4:00 AM

You don't have to be a fan of "The Simpsons" to get the jokes in the just-opened "The Simpsons Movie."

In fact, notes the film's director, David Silverman, the film's creators put more inside nods into the movie and wound up taking them out: "We had more of them in there, and they just didn't get a response," he says.

Still, connoisseurs of the show will recognize hints and nods to both popular and obscure bits of "Simpsons" trivia if they watch the movie closely. Among them:

  • Itchy & Scratchy: The cartoon-within-a-cartoon cat and mouse are regulars on "The Krusty the Clown Show" and pop up on "The Simpsons" as a mirror or just to provide gruesomely ultra-violent humor.

  • Bart on his skateboard: When Homer dares Bart to skateboard naked to Krusty Burger, Bart's ride au naturel mirrors the trip he makes to open most episodes of the TV show - except, of course, without his clothes.

  • A. Brooks: The voice for villainous EPA chief Russ Cargill is credited to "A. Brooks." Which, of course, is filmmaker Albert Brooks, who has voiced no fewer than five characters over the years on the TV show, including Jacques, a French bowling pro who woos Marge, and Hank Scorpio, the kind of villain you find in a James Bond movie - who hires Homer.

  • Rock bands: In the early part of the film, the members of Green Day appear as themselves, performing at an environmental benefit. They're part of a long tradition of musicians appearing as themselves on the show, a list that includes Tito Puente, Barry White, the Who, Aerosmith, Spinal Tap, Robert Goulet and Tony Bennett.

  • Recurring characters: Numerous recurring characters from the TV show turn up briefly in the movie, including local mobster Fat Tony, rotund (and orotund) Comic Book Guy, absurdly Spanish-speaking Bee Man, Jerry Lewis-like scientist Prof. Frink, hillbilly Cletus the slack-jawed yokel, quack mall physician Dr. Nick Riviera and decrepit punching bag Hans Moleman.

  • Guest voices: Over the years, everyone from Dustin Hoffman to Tony Blair to Stephen Hawking has provided a guest voice on "The Simpsons" TV show. The movie limits it to Brooks, Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony, and Green Day and Tom Hanks as themselves.

  • Gabbo: Various Springfieldians register awe as doom comes to town, including Gabbo, a ventriloquist's dummy whose afternoon kids' show nearly ended the career of Krusty the Clown.

  • Stampy: As Springfield residents try to break through the dome, there's a shot of an elephant attacking the Plexiglas. That's Stampy, the elephant Bart won in a contest in season five, which was eventually donated to a wildlife refuge (after a destructive rampage).

  • Inuit epiphany: Homer winds up in an Inuit epiphany ceremony and undergoes hallucinations calculated to help him figure out what to do to save his family. This seems like a nod to the episode in which Homer eats a Guatemalan insanity pepper at a chili cookoff and goes on a hallucinatory spirit quest in which a coyote (voiced by Johnny Cash) serves as his spirit guide.

  • Jumping Springfield Gorge: Homer and Bart wind up on a motorcycle that takes off from a ramp on one side of Springfield Gorge, and proceed to jump over it. This refers to an episode when Bart, attempting to become a professional daredevil, announces he will jump over the gorge on his skateboard and Homer tries to stop him.

Marshall Fine

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