ORLANDO — Universal is the last place you'd expect to find a smart kiss-off to the Big Dumb Coaster, but with the Simpsons Ride — a new $30-million motion simulator on the former site of Back to the Future: The Ride — the park has sure found one. The premise: You ride along on a rickety, rollicking romp through a CGI Springfield, as a murderous Sideshow Bob sends the Simpson family on a condemned Krustyland coaster, the Thrilltacular Upsy-Downsy Spins-Aroundsy High-Flying Teen-Operated Thrill Ride. The car spins off the tracks and crashes into other park attractions with gleefully parodic names like Captain Dinosaur's Pirate Rip-Off and Krusty's Wet & Smoky Stunt Show.
The good: The ride is packed with more original, funny material than you'd expect to see in a sitcom, much less a theme park. A team of Simpsons writers collaborated on a ton of new dialogue and sight gags, most of it dealing with the absurdity of the theme park experience — the size of the food, the cheapness of the midway prizes, the ridiculously long lines for coasters. One highlight is a video scroll of signs for other attractions at Krustyland ("Merlin's Medieval Joust: Closed for wizard re-bearding"). Even the dialogue is chuckle-out-loud funny — like this snippet from a preride safety video, in which the family hops into their car after waiting an hour in line:
HOMER: Wow, we're the first people to ever ride this baby. We're like that space guy who did that moon thing.
LISA: Neil Armstrong?
HOMER: No, Chewbacca.
Great stuff. Throw in a couch gag at the end — and yes, the ride has one — and you've basically got yourself an all-new episode.
The bad: It's not a short ride. Even with an Express Plus Pass, you're probably going to spend at least 25 minutes in line. Also, the ride is a little discombobulating. I'm a roller coaster veteran, and by the second time I rode it, I actually felt a little queasy. Finally, if you're taller than 6 feet, you'll have to sit in the front row due to a lack of headroom in the back (which is really a blessing in disguise, because the view from the front is much better).
Good for kids? Kids are welcome on the ride — the height requirement is 40 inches, the same as Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast. The material is nothing more objectionable than what you'd see on the show, so let that be your guide.
Worth the trip? For Simpsons fans, absolutely. You'll be stunned by how much care and creativity went into it. And if you're not into Homer and company, well, there's always Fear Factor Live.
Park details: Universal Orlando opens at 9 a.m. daily; closing hours vary. One-day passes start at $69.99; $58.99 for ages 3 to 9. Free for 2 and younger. Combination tickets with Islands of Adventure available, as are Florida resident discounts. Go to universalorlando.com.