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The Simpsons Movie finally opens this week. Tara Thorne sets her blind love aside for a second to see what the damn holdup was.

There's been talk of a Simpsons movie for almost as long as people have been saying The Simpsons has lost it. In the early '90s, when the show was beginning its remarkable ascent, Matt Groening would only say "maybe." In 1995, talking to a radio station, writer-producer David Mirkin offered a definitive reason why not: the Simpsons people were too preoccupied with, you know, making The Simpsons to find time to produce a film. (Each episode, from conception to air, takes nine months to complete.)

"We're all busy. There are very few people who can write The Simpsons," Mirkin told the Montreal station. "That can animate The Simpsons. We're all busy doing the show. So I don't think you are going to necessarily see a movie until the show is done its production and some people are freed up to do it, that could actually do a good job, because we are very quality conscious."

Less than a month later, Groening told Flux magazine, "I doubt it will happen."

In the March/April 1999 issue of Mother Jones he revealed, "We're talking now about doing a Simpsons movie; if deals can be made, then maybe we'll do a movie." Magazine lead times mean he would've done the Mother Jones interview as early as December of 1998. Soon after, in March 1999, he told NPR's Fresh Air, "I'd love to do a movie, but it ain't gonna happen. There's too much money-grubbing involved."

By this time, the petulant fanboy scuttlebutt was that The Simpsons had peaked creatively anyway, and movie talk dropped off because people stopped caring. "The Simpsons film may be a great mythological thing that is always talked about and never done," sighed producer Josh Weinstein. In 2001, buzz hit the internet that the movie was a go and in it Bart would lose his virginity, the first bit of plot ever tied to this great mythological thing. In 2002, producer Al Jean told Ain't It Cool News that when the voice cast signed its new, famously increased contracts, there was a three-picture deal included.

Word finally came down in 2003 that Groening had begun work on a script. By the following year, seven writers were working on a greenlit film. "They've wanted to do this since season two. It's been 13 years of wanting to do the Simpsons movie," producer-consultant Mike Reiss said. "Finally Fox said, "Let's just do it!' We never had the greatest idea that was compelling but Fox said, "Maybe if we start paying you, you'll get inspired.' And sure enough it worked!"

On March 31, 2006, a teaser trailer for The Simpsons Movie screened before Ice Age 2. It was a mock Superman ad, pulling back to reveal Homer sitting on the couch in his underwear and undersized Supe shirt. "I forgot what I'm supposed to say," he said. "The Simpsons Movie. Opening worldwide July 27, 2007," the announcer announced.

Not a single plot detail has been confirmed by anyone who would know—there's a theory that Springfield is under threat of a nuclear attack, though none of the scenes in the trailers seem to apply. (Nor does the awesome "Spider-Pig" bit in the current TV slots.) But the plot isn't the point. In later, zanier years, The Simpsons has become notorious for its hard-right-turn stories, where the first 10 minutes have absolutely nothing to do with the episode's main story arc.

Also not the point: whether it's going to be good. That it's even a question is insulting to a pop-culture institution like this one, whose makers have always strived to do right by its fans (after all, quality is the reason it took this long to get a friggin' movie!). While current episodes might not hit as hard as they did in the years when The Simpsons was fresh, new and lacked imitators, as they seep into the syndication queue it becomes clear that they hold just as much innovation, wit and heart as the supposed mid-to-late-'90s heyday.

There's a reason The Simpsons is on TV at least four times on any given day. People watch it. If they didn't, it wouldn't be there. This movie's creation has taken almost 20 years, which is the most expensive marketing plan in the history of film. And nobody even knows the plot! But we'll go anyway because what we can expect is so very dear to us—two decades' worth of Simpsons influence, merchandise, nostalgia, vernacular and love. Especially love.

The Simpsons Movie opens July 27. See Movie Times, for info.

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