(originally aired October 19, 2008)
The first act of this show almost feels like leftovers from the last episode, featuring Homer and Marge fed up with an out-of-control Bart, who is a rambunctious little brat who causes mischief because he can. I actually didn’t mind most of it on that front… until the plot begins. After the fallout of one of his pranks at a fancy dinner party, Bart encounters Simon Wusterfield, ten-year-old little rich boy who happens to look just like him! And shock of shockers, they switch places so they can experience each other’s lives! Four hundred and twenty three episodes in, we’re honestly doing The Prince and the fucking Pauper? Also, I seem to recall the comics doing a similar story a decade back where Bart swaps places with a pop star doppelganger. I’m confused by the motivations here. Bart appears to be almost remorseful and befuddled by his behavior, when you’d think he would be resentful of his parents and want to live unrestricted, which is why he’d want Simon’s carefree life. Again, it seems like someone mixed up pages of this script and “Lost Verizon” and no one noticed.
Once they make the switch, everything becomes absolutely boring. Simon is a non-character; no effort is made to explain why he’d want a commoner’s life, and we spend most of the entirety of the episode on Bart anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Bart eats up his spacious mansion, and is high on the hog until he encounters Simon’s half-siblings, who are set on offing him to collect their family fortune. He’s warned of their intentions by Mr. Burns, and Simon and the Simpsons must save Bart, and then they do, and the episode’s over. It’s just an exercise in watching the familiar plot beats, listening to the character’s exposit their every move, and waiting for twenty minutes to be up. There are a few token funny and sweet moments, but most of them are buried under humorless bits and lots of ridiculous shit. Also, again, thePrince and the Pauper? Really, you guys? Really?
Tidbits and Quotes
– The exposition-filled dialogue starts off right away (“Ponder this, Homer, this ticket could have been yours if your kid hadn’t been screwing around!”) No shit?
– Odd we have Homer incensed by Bart’s bad behavior and Marge quick to write it off, whereas their viewpoints were reversed in the past in “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie.” I actually like some of the stuff in act one with Marge getting worn down by Bart’s shenanigans too, her having to wear her backup dress and it ripping when she goes to scold Bart after the party fiasco. I feel they could have merged the good parts of this and “Lost Verizon” into a good character-focused episode. Instead we get Machu Picchu and the Prince and the Pauper. Ah well.
– Lenny’s party is laugh-free, with his extended introduction and him singing “Thank You for Being a Friend.” Where are the jokes? And Bart setting off all the Roombas… just stupid.
– I don’t like that Burns mentions the Wusterfield fortune is greater than his; he’s supposed to be the richest man in Springfield. We never even see Simon’s parents, or find out what they do, or why they’re so rich; anything to make him any semblance of a character.
– The conversation between Burns and Bart is basically all exposition, where he flat out mentions the half-siblings might strike during a ski trip, and then later he appears in a thought bubble to reiterate that before they go off to Aspen.
– “Welcome to Aspen. Population: White” is a good gag, as are the sophisticated winos.
– Homer rescues Bart by, how else, being a reckless insane person. He yells, “This looks like a job for Captain Crazy!” before jumping off the chair lift and rolling down the mountain, forming a giant snowball that sucks Bart in for a wacky action sequence! Oh, brother.
– Even though the episode didn’t really earn it, the ending with Marge tucking in Bart is pretty sweet.