478. Angry Dad: The Movie

Original airdate: February 20, 2011

The premise:
The current intellectual property holder of Bart’s old Internet cartoon Angry Dad approaches him about making it into a film, later turned into a short. As the film sweeps awards season, Bart becomes discouraged that his father is assuming all the credit for his work.

The reaction: Here’s a modern Simpsons trope that I’ve missed (sarcasm), wherein a Simpson becomes a gigantic and talented success apropos of nothing, in an episode entirely based upon Hollywood navel-gazing. “I Am Furious Yellow,” an episode from nine years prior, was a perfectly enjoyable episode featuring then contemporary riffing on Internet companies and web cartoons. This episode is less concerned with the actual cartoon of Angry Dad and more about fame and the awards circuit. From the moment they walk in the studio, Bart and Homer are regarded as legends of the industry. Why? Is Angry Dad like a cult classic? It’s the equivalent of animators today shitting themselves over meeting the Joe Cartoon guy. None of the history of why people care so much about Angry Dad or the production of the short itself is really dwelled on; we skip from the decision to make it a short rather than a film, act break, and then we find out it’s been nominated for a Golden Globe. We don’t even know what the fuck the film is, and if you haven’t seen or don’t remember “Yellow,” you should have no clue what’s going on. So the emotional thrust of the episode is Bart getting bummed out that Homer, as voice and inspiration of Angry Dad, is hogging all the credit for all the awards the short is getting. Boy, what a relatable conflict! But it’s not clear what exactly Bart’s role in this film is. Two-thirds of the way in, we find out he was the writer/director of the film. What? We never saw any of that. Bart is busy crowing about not getting the recognition he deserves, but meanwhile we never saw him really putting any work into the film at all. But none of that matters. I’ve referenced it many times in the past, but the entire episode reeks of that one classic line of Krusty’s trying to relate to the common man (“Like when your lazy butler washes your sock garters, and they’re still covered with schmutz?”) This is a show with a staff that’s won countless awards, and this episode is all about their world and their problems, far removed from the average American family the Simpsons are supposed to be. When Bart gets the call that Angry Dad is up for an Oscar, he goes into a little song (“I’m going to the Oscars! Not as a seat filler! I’ll get a gift basket! But I won’t declare it!”) So this normal ten-year-old boy knows about the concept of seat fillers, getting gift baskets at Hollywood events, and declaring them on taxes he doesn’t have to file because he’s fucking ten. Terrible, terrible episode.

Three items of note:
– Instead of getting any actual plot or character motivation, we’re treated to extended clips of other cartoons, aping the likes of The Triplets of Belleville, Wallace & Gromit, Persepolis, and so on. But there’s not really any parody element to them; they’re just references, Simpson-ized versions of the actual articles that are effectively love letters. We love you, Mixar! I mean, Pixar! Ooooh, but we made a small dig at Cars! BURN! The easiest comparison one can make is to “The Front,” as both episodes involve an award show for animation. Remember the “How to Buy Action Figure Man” bit from that episode? It’s one of the most brilliant jokes the show has ever done, eviscerating the not-so-hidden agenda of 80s cartoons existing to sell toys in a mere four seconds. We see only a few seconds of each nominee, because that’s all the time they needed to tell their jokes and move on. Here, we get at least forty seconds each of four different nominees, where, as mentioned, there’s no real joke, it’s just a tribute to those actual films. There’s nothing scathing or subversive about it, but a lot can change in twenty years. The writing staff of season 4 wasn’t as highly gilded, still bitter off their Emmy loss to a claymation Easter special, so they took great pleasure taking fire at their medium and the hokey pomp and circumstance of award shows. Nowadays, it’s just a big non-offensive love fest. It’s like the ending of “Radioactive Man” played completely straight, with a kind, ever-forgiving Hollywood set to “Lean on Me.”
– Lisa tries to encourage Bart about making Angry Dad into a short, listing great directors who started out making shorts: Wes Anderson, Frank Tashlin, and Tim Burton. One of these things is not like the other, isn’t it? Anderson and Burton are contemporary filmmakers, so I’ll give it Lisa knows of them. But Frank Tashlin? Tashlin was one of the lesser known classic Warner Bros. cartoon directors, doing a lot of the old Porky Pig cartoons of the 1930s. I’m a huge cartoon nerd and I didn’t even know that after that, he went off to direct some successful films in the 50s, none of which are titles I recognize. The point is, there’s no fucking way Lisa knows who Frank Tashlin is. I try to not reiterate points that are constant problems in for this series, but Lisa’s compendium of world knowledge when the plot needs it was especially glaring here. That, and the joke isn’t over. Bart replies to the list of three with, “Name one more.” Lisa replies, “Taylor Hackford.” So the writers are aware of this trope, but they do it anyway. I looked up Hackford, he did some short films, but then later directed such films as An Officer and a Gentleman, The Devil’s Advocate, and Ray. Hackford and Tashlin are both names unknown to the public, but I’d hazard a guess more of the general public have greater familiarity with those movies than they do of Tashlin’s work. Did it all come down to that they couldn’t think of a third name to go along with Anderson and Burton? She could have just said fucking John Lasseter, which would then tie into their later Pixar dick sucking. Done.
– This episode has a parade of superfluous guest voices. First up is Ricky Gervais, who previously played not-himself in an episode he kinda sorta wrote the outline for, this time just plain playing himself. Now, remember when Gervais hosted the Golden Globes and made Hollywood feel uncomfortable with the jokes he told at their expense? Remember how big a “controversy” that was? That’s basically the underlying joke in his scene with a sign gag present throughout, and it’s a real eye roller. More inside baseball humor. Also, both of his scenes run far, far too long; as was the case in his last episode, his very rambling, long-winded style of comedy does not really fit well with this show. It would also help if his lines were actually funny. Russell Brand and Halle Berry appear to present awards, and pretend to make fun of themselves. The most curious appearance is Nick Park, Wallace & Gromit director, who admittedly is the best guest of the list (“I’m more clay than man now.”) But it’s just weird considering not many people must know who he is. I guess they figure the audience will figure it out; they don’t even say his full name, Lisa just says “Mr. Park.”

One good line/moment: This is pretty difficult, since this is definitely my most hated episode so far. I guess I’ll go with the aforementioned Nick Park line. I love Aardman anything.


8 responses to “478. Angry Dad: The Movie

  1. Thanks for your perseverance, Mike. I’ve been reading your reviews for a couple years now, and I’m always surprised at how much worse the episodes seem to get.

    Forgive me if this is a common question you receive, but do you think the writers think any of this material is truly funny? Or do you think they’ve just deluded themselves for a sizable paycheck?

    After the show finally goes off the air – dear God, please soon – I hope ex-writers, animators, and maybe even some of the voice cast like Shearer will be open and honest with how much the show has declined. Hearing Al Jean in interviews continuously say “I think the show is as funny as it’s ever been” is just so confusing and wrong.

    • I doubt anyone involved in the show will directly admit it, until it finally ends anyway, but over at Deadhomers ‘Crazy Noises’ (write-ups of DVD commentaries) there’s plenty of evidence they know how bad some individual episodes are, certainly.

    • I’m sure the voice actors must know the series is shit now, but the writers….i don’t know. I mean, the writing on this show is just so utterly bad on every level. Badly structured, unevenly paced, stilted dialogue, characters narrating their thoughts/feelings and events that occur rather than showing it organically, over-extended jokes that usually aren’t even funny to begin with, explaining jokes, flat personalities, an over reliance on catchphrases and one-beat stereotypes. The list goes on. They are completely incompetent at the fundamentals of storycraft.

  2. The next three episodes are also awful, even worse than this, maybe.

  3. You thought this one was terrible? You’re about to watch three of the series’ absolute worst episodes in a row. One of them in particular is something that never should have gotten past the stage of “Hey, how about we do this?”

  4. “But there’s not really any parody element to them; they’re just references, Simpson-ized versions of the actual articles that are effectively love letters. We love you, Mixar! I mean, Pixar! ”
    For me it’s even worse since I consider Pixar movies on par with Zombie Simpsons, just a 80mins of forced sitcom’s characters, humor, and moral at the end, disguised as a movie. And they treat them like geniuses. It makes the ZS writers even more pathetic and incompetent to me.

  5. I personally like “Persepolis”, and it took me a good 5 years to realize that they parodied it with “Saakashvili Spring”. Because they really didn’t. What THAT movie was was an amazing insight into the life of someone caught in the headlights of the troubles in her home country. What that short was was tacky, way too overdramatic, and confusing to the people who DO get the reference. I personally recommend it better than anything in the ZS era.

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