Alf Clausen, you will be avenged! Clausen, the longtime composer of all original music for "The Simpsons", has long had to suffer the indignity of being responsible for all tunes Groening except for the theme, which Danny Elfman receives exactly one giant money bag per day for. That theme is almost universally known and loved, but Clausen's work is in a way much more impressive; given the far-flung range of satire "The Simpsons" has reached in its 20 years, Clausen has had to be as versatile as any television/movie composer in the industry. Plus, he had absolutely nothing to do with The Simpsons Sing the Blues, which is definitely worth some points.
And yet, producers of The Simpsons Movie (you may have seen a commercial or two for it) chose to snub Clausen and go with former Ultravox/Buggles keyboardist Hans Zimmer. Well, okay, Zimmer's also done Oscar-nominated scores for stuff like The Lion King and Gladiator, but c'mon, who saw those? Clearly the idea was to give the movie a more cinematic feel via the score, an understandable priority for creators faced with making (as the opening sequence points out) a film version of a TV show you can watch for free 12 times a day. But as far as Simpsons loyalists are concerned, Zimmer could be one of the German guys who took over the Springfield Power Plant in "Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk", inspiring Homer's fantasy about the Land of Chocolate (music by A. Clausen).
The thing is, scoring the music for a Simpsons story, be it episode or feature, is no easy task. Thick with one-liners, subtle sight gags, and (in the case of the movie) flashy animation tricks, the music has to fight for limited space. Even after seeing the flick, the only pieces I recognize on replay are the surf-guitar spy-theme of "Release the Hounds" and the Elfmanish choral treatment of trailer gag "Spider Pig". The rest of the soundtrack is filled with stock orchestral scoring that befits the film's extra-wide aspect ratio without being intrusive, the only thing marking it as particularly Simpsons being the repeated appearance of variations on the central theme.
Granted, it's unfair to compare this collection with Clausen's magnum opus Go Simpsonic With the Simpsons, given the several dozen episodes that disc pulls from. Perhaps a better comparison is another TV-to-film conversion, 1999's South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, wherein Hollywood vet Marc Shaiman (from such classics as Sister Act and Hot Shots!) gleefully skewered the conventions of cartoon musicals with the show's creators. Miraculously and thankfully, The Simpsons Movie is not a musical (it's even less musical than several recent seasons), but the chance to add a level of orchestral parody to the joke-filled mix is flubbed.
But, then again, The Simpsons Movie isn't as good as the South Park movie either-- though it was surprisingly satisfying. More than any comedic failings (is the techno version of the theme, "Recklessly Impulsive", supposed to be a joke?), Zimmer's score is a snooze just because it's so bland and generic, with the only memorable bits coming from the 11-note theme that was already written for him. Who knows if Clausen would've done much better, but it's worth speculating that keeping things in-house, and using someone experienced at keeping up with the show's frenetic joke pace, would've run truer to the Simpsons spirit, or at least been more fun to listen to at home.