by Ben Sachs
This five-minute Simpsons cartoon played before the most recent Ice Age feature; and while it features a couple of satirical gags worthy of a good Simpsons episode, it feels closer in spirit to the kid-friendly entertainment of the Ice Age movies. The plot has baby Maggie enrolled at the "Ayn Rand School for Tots," where toddlers are divided into a "Gifted Area" and a grim-looking room marked "Nothing Special." Apart from the appearance of "Raggedy Ayn Rand" dolls, the filmmakers never advance on the satirical promise of that set-up. Instead they introduce a toddler villain who likes smash butterflies with a mallet and who chases Maggie around the school when she tries to adopt a caterpillar.
Six writers, including Matt Groening and James L. Brooks, are credited on the script. David Silverman, the credited director, has been involved with the Simpsons TV series since its inception, directed The Simpsons Movie, and codirected Monsters, Inc. With all that talent involved, I expected something sharper and funnier. (One could read this as an allegory about the negative implications of Rand's individualist philosophy—with the "nothing special" kids turned into antisocial monsters as a result of being written off—but the movie doesn't really support that reading. There's nothing to suggest that the butterfly killer wasn't already predisposed to act this way, and the filmmakers suggest that some of the other toddlers, like one oafish-looking kid who's shown gobbling paste, really are "nothing special." I wouldn't fault the filmmakers for endorsing or criticizing individualism, but the incoherence of this cartoon seems less like the result of ambivalence than of lazy writing.)