The Simpsons Heaven and Hell
November 24, 2004
They’re yellow, they’re America’s favourite family, they’re The Simpsons, they’re on DVD with classic episodes, and they’re not worth your time or money.
What are Fox thinking? They have released a series of themed-based Simpsons DVDs and this collection has been titled ‘Heaven and Hell’ and only features four mediocre episodes and no extra features. The menu screens are so basic it’s untrue; there has been no effort put into them whatsoever. As you’d expect you can select to watch the episodes in any order you like or select to play them all.
First up from Season Four is Homer The Heretic in which Homer has the perfect Sunday morning when he skips church, much to Marge’s dislike. Homer is in Heaven, he didn’t have to get out of bed, he eats his favourite foods, and a public affairs programme is cancelled for a football game. After accidentally setting fire to the house and getting trapped in the hellish blaze, it’s up to the residents of Springfield (of varying religions) to try save Homer. It’s a pretty good attempt to comment on a multi-cultural society that we live in, but the theme gets lost in the dumb Homer-esque antics.
Next it’s the reliable formula of a Simpsons Tree house of Horror. All the usual conventions of the Halloween specials are in there, the spooky title sequence, cameos from the aliens and the episode split into three separate stories hosted by Bart. ‘The Devil and Homer Simpson’ tells us the story of when Homer sells his soul to the devil (Ned Flanders) for a doughnut. In ‘Terror at 5 ½ foot’ Bart foresees his own death aboard the school bus and he fears it’s coming true when a strange goblin/gollum type creature attacks. Finally Mister Burns played the part of an evil vampire that invites The Simpson family for dinner in ‘Bart Simpson’s Dracula’. A good send up of the horror genre and a worthy edition to the Halloween series, but nothing groundbreaking.
The best episode on the disc is Bart Sells His Soul from Season Seven. Even though it feels very repetitive of a previous episode, Bart sells his soul to his best mate Millhouse for $5. This get-rich-quick scheme does provide the disc with its most thought provoking episode, as mysterious events happen to Bart, like his breath not showing on glass and he doesn’t laugh at his favourite cartoon Itchy and Scratchy, we found ourselves asking What Is Our Soul? The answer is forced upon us by Bart’s dream of the children of Springfield playing with apparitions of themselves and helping each other reach a utopian destination – maybe heaven. It’s heavy stuff from the writing team, but it’s the only one within this collection that proves they can be creative and funny.
The final dose is from Season Eight, In Marge We Trust. Again we are focused on the church, when Marge becomes ‘The Listen Lady’ as she takes over from Reverend Lovejoy as an ear to bend for the whole town, but this is really uninteresting compared to the sub-plot. Homer finds a Japanese soap power box that bears his image as the company logo. As he investigates further into how his face got on to the box it presents a uniquely funny opportunity for The Simpsons to gently jab fun at the crazy and wacky Japanese sense of humour and how the Western culture perceives it.
They’re not the best episodes to promote what The Simpsons are capable of and what they can offer and when the season box sets are much better value for money. However, as always the animation and voice acting is flawless.