[5.5/10 on a post-classic Simpsons scale] I have to give “The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby” credit for this: both the A-story have a beginning, middle, and end, and an emotional conflict to help motivate them. That’s something!
In the A-story, Homer stumbles on a helium reserve owned by Cletus, befriends him at Mr. Burns’s behest to obtain the rights to it, only to find the friendship genuine and decide to stick up for the yokel rather than grift him on behalf of his boss. Marge supervises a playdate with Maggie’s infant crush, gets offended at the other mom’s persnickety ways, but then relents and lets the kids play together despite her own frustrations for the good of Maggie. That’s solid, basic storytelling on both fronts.
There’s just two problems. First, both stories are undeveloped, with little more than the barest of bare bones progressions for both of them. And second, this episode is just not funny. I’m not sure anything here was able to coax anything more than a mild chuckle out of me. That’s a hard thing to put your finger on -- why something isn’t funny. But at root, there were a lto of overly cartoony gags and stale observational humor that lacked the wit or comic punch of The Simpsons in its best years.
But hey! At least some of the animation was good! The couch gag, a creatively rotoscoped/stylized piece that showed Our Favorite Family engaging in some extreme sports, was a fun 30-second lark. And the sequences where Mr. Burns and Homer were wilding out on hillbilly moonshine were creative and fun, harkening back to an old school animation feel.
Those are meager treasures in an otherwise solid, but boring episode. I never bought Homer’s friendship with Cletus. Marge’s moral conundrum was too glancing to really matter (not to mention the fact that it’s kind of hard to invest in a romantic relationship between babies), and the closing riff on “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen was downright embarrassing in its tepid humor.
Overall, this episode checks the right boxes in terms of story, but has little in addition to that to make this one worth watching.