The Simpsons Bart Wars
Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson, Marge Simpson
4 episodes and 1 extra
Fox Home Entertainment

The connection between the Star Wars themed cover of this collection of 4 episodes from The Simpsons is tenuous as the very cool artwork has nothing to do with the content of the episodes aside from the fact one episode features the voice of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and a few jokes about George Lucas and the Jedi franchise. Nevertheless, Bart Wars is a very good collection of some of the best episodes from that great (although on its very last legs) animated sitcom.

Dog of Death, episode 54 season 3 1992, features the Simpson family scrimping and saving to pay for a life-saving operation on Santa’s Little Helper. Being the dysfunctional family they are, they soon blame the dog for the sacrifices they have to make, especially after the numbers Marge usually plays win the lottery. The dog runs away and becomes a guard dog for Mr. Burns. Of course, all is well that ends well and Bart gets his dog back. The advantage to owning The Simpsons on DVD is you can pause, freeze, and play some scenes in slow motion. This will allow a careful viewer to see that one of the books Homer throws in the fireplace is Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. This is the kind of humor that has made this show so successful.

Marge Be Not Proud, episode 139 season 5 1995, is one of the annual Christmas specials. This is the one where Bart gets caught shoplifting a video game and, although he manages to keep it from his parents for a while, eventually gets caught. Marge’s punishment for Bart is to stop mothering him, something that really affects young Master Simpson. Part of the humour in this offering is the contrast between Bart and the rich kid who bosses around his mother.

The Secret War of Lisa Simpson, episode 178 season 8 1997 and featuring the voice of Willem Dafoe, is where Bart and Lisa end up at a military academy called Rommelwood. Bart is sent there by his parents for the really cool prank of putting a series of megaphones back to back, Lisa just simply wants to go there because she is dissatisfied with the local public school. Although the many jokes about the military, the movie Taps are entertaining, it is sad to note that the source of Lisa’s dissatisfaction (old movies being shown in class by disinterested teachers) is something most kids in public schools can relate to. This theme, by the way, is an ongoing inside joke in this cartoon situation comedy and in this DVD set as such fun is also poked in Dog of Death. As in other shows, Bart ends up supporting and encouraging his sister who manages to graduate from the second grade (or does she ever?)

Mayored to the Mob, episode 212 season 10 1998, features Mark Hamill and Joe Mantegna (of Spenser movie fame). Basically, Homer ends up being a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby after rescuing Hammil from a rampaging mob of nerds. The many jokes about Star Wars, Mark Hammil himself, mobsters, are only part of the fun since the real laughs come from the numerous digs at geeks and trekkies (as when the commercial for the Bi-Mon Sci-Fi Con states “Be there and be square”.) The bizarre take on the musical Guys and Dolls with a song that doesn’t belong to the original show is also very humorous.

What the DVD jacket does not mention and should have is the extra feature included here. The people at Fox have included a segment of Mayored to the Mob with the storyboard and the animatic (the animated storyboard). What is really cool is that with the angle selection on your remote you can jump from one to the other to the full color version.

Why get this animated comedy on DVD? Well, you get the complete episodes and not the truncated version you get in syndication and you get the full Dolby Surround effect, something else that syndication does not always offer. Also, it is obvious that Fox cares about The Simpsons, the graphics for the various menus are original and very well done. This latest set puts to shame any cynic who would think this is just a case of milking the series for all its worth.


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