The Simpsons: Bart Wars review by Mike Long

The Simpsons: Bart Wars marks the fifth non-season boxed set DVD release for The Simpsons from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and with each arrivals, the products get weirder and weirder. Christmas with The Simpsons, The Simpsons Christmas 2, and The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror all made some sense, as they had seasonal themes. Yet, The Simpsons: Bart Wars falls in line with The Simpsons Gone Wild as there is no major theme and the set appears to be simply a random collection of four episodes.

The cover art of The Simpsons: Bart Wars, featuring a Bart "Luke Skywalker" Simpson battling Homer "Darth Vader" Simpson, would suggest a Star Wars theme, but in reality only one of the four episodes included on this DVD tie into Lucas' famous franchise. The shows on this DVD are as follows:

"Dog of Death" (Season 3, Original airdate: 3/12/92) -- When the family dog, Santa's Little Helper, becomes ill, the family must make sacrifices in order to pay for his surgery. But, once he's better, everyone begins to resent the fact that they had to give up their favorite luxuries. Feeling rejected, Santa's Little Helper runs away and is soon recruited to be one of Mr. Burns' (voiced by Harry Shearer) attack dogs. Will Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) be able to retrieve his best friend? This is a solid episode from the early years, featuring nods to earlier episodes (Principal Skinner's (voiced by Harry Shearer) disappearance) and cultural references (A Clockwork Orange). The fact that Santa's Little Helper is essentially the main character of the show limits the comedy, but there are some funny moments here.

"Marge Be Not Proud" (Season 7, Original airdate: 12/17/95) -- Bart wants the new violent video game "Bloodstone", but his parents won't buy it for him. So, he decides to steal it and is promptly caught. This leaves Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner) very disappointed in her son. Bart must then try to prove to his mother that's he not a "Bad Seed" and win back her love. This is one of those nice episodes of The Simpsons which combines comedy (Milhouse's bizarre tactics to get Bart out of his house) with a genuine sense of heart. The show always finds a way to make holiday episodes worthwhile, and this is a nice Christmas entry.

"The Secret War of Lisa Simpson" (Season 8, Original airdate: 5/18/97) -- When Bart pulls a destructive prank while on a field trip to the police station, his parents decide to send him to military school. Seeing the discipline and academic proficiency of the school, Lisa (voiced by Yeardley Smith) decides to stay as well. Being the only girl at the school, Lisa is scorned and ridiculed, even by Bart. However, she doesn't back down and is willing to do whatever it takes to compete with her classmates. This is a mediocre episode as there as some good one-liners, but the overall plot is a bit too familiar and weak. (Given the fact that storylines on this show are often quite weird.) There are some funny lines, but overall this is no classic.

"Mayored to the Mob" (Season 10, Original airdate: 12/20/98) -- After saving the life of both Mayor Quimby (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) and Mark Hamill at the Bi-Mon Sci-Fi Con, Homer (voiced by Castellaneta) is recruited to be Quimby's new bodyguard. Together, they take on the Mob and attempt to clean up Springfield. Of course, the Mob doesn't take kindly to this, placing Homer in harm's way. This is a great episode, as it spoof science-fiction conventions, has one of the grossest use of rats ever seen on TV, and the most incredible dinner theater fight ever seen. The jokes come very quickly on this show and the fact that Mark Hamill can laugh at himself really helps the show.

Even if you ignore the Star Wars cover on this DVD and assume that "war" is the central theme, then only "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson" fits in. The Simpsons have mocked Star Wars on many occasions and Fox could have easily made a DVD collection of those shows if that was there intention. (There was an episode just last year where Lucas himself was lampooned.) Instead, they give us this odd assortment of shows which feature no real central theme and a great range of quality. As someone who's been fan of The Simpsons since the show's inception, I feel that "any Simpsons is good Simpsons", but I can only recommend this collection to die-hard fans.

The Simpsons: Bart Wars comes to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The episodes are all presented in their original 1:33:1 aspect ratio. While the image is very sharp and clear here, and the colors look very good, I noticed that the picture was very unstable at times. During all four episodes, there were moments where the image would "jump" and be slightly blurry. This didn't happen throughout the shows, but when it did, it was quite noticeable. The DVDs carry a Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio is well-balanced and there's no hissing or distortion. Surround sound effects are sparse, but well-placed when they do occur. The only extras on this DVD are animation production samples from "Mayored to the Mob", which include animatics and storyboards.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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