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South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

Review by Joe Barlow
Posted 9 July 1999

  Directed by Trey Parker

Starring the voices of Trey Parker,
Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes,
Mary Kay Bergman, Minnie Driver,
and George Clooney

Written by Trey Parker,
Matt Stone, and Pam Brady

"This movie has warped my fragile little mind."
    -Eric Cartman, "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut"

The above quote from Eric Cartman could easily function as a one-sentence review of the new animated film in which he stars. I never thought I'd see the day when a cartoon about potty-mouthed children, a sex-obsessed cafeteria cook, and a piece of singing feces became not only acceptable television programming, but a national phenomenon as well. God bless America. Since debuting on Comedy Central in 1997, South Park has continually pushed the envelope of good taste and challenged the conventional idea of what is and is not appropriate for television. The battle has not been an easy one: since the very first episode was aired, the network has been besieged by letters from angry parents, religious organizations, and nearly every political group in the country, all demanding the immediate cancellation of the series. But the proof is in the Snacky Cakes: Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the show's creators, have demonstrated that poo-poos and profanity can not only entertain the masses, they can also mean big merchandising dollars. Now they're gambling that they can take the premise (and its profits) to the next level.

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is ninety minutes of nearly continuous profanity, vomiting, sexual innuendoes and fart gags. It's crude, horrifying, shocking, disturbing... and the funniest movie I've seen since 1993's Clerks.

In the small "redneck mountain town" (according to the opening song) of South Park, Colorado, life is quiet and peaceful -- idyllic, even. But the town's solitude is challenged when a new film opens at the local theater: Asses of Fire, starring Canada's Terrence and Phillip (a comedy duo whose schtick revolves entirely around their ability to fart on cue). Four of the local children (Eric Cartman, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski and Kenny McCormick) sneak in to see the R-rated movie, and are quite taken with the new vocabulary words contained therein. As is the way with children, they promptly begin showing off their new arsenal of colorful phrases at every possible opportunity.

The community is outraged that four pure, innocent children have been corrupted by the film (apparently they don't watch the South Park TV show), and soon the president declares all-out war on Canada, the bastion of evil responsible for the offending movie. Terrence and Philip are sentenced to die, and the boys hatch a plan to save their idols. Even more is at stake, however: Kenny discovers that if Terrence and Phillip are killed, Satan and his lover, Saddam Hussein, will gain dominance over the world.

No matter what you may think of the convoluted plot, one has to admire the skill that has gone into constructing it. South Park is one of those treasured rarities: a movie that actually enriches the TV show upon which it's based. Once again, envelopes are pushed to the breaking point (the MPAA initially gave the film an NC-17 rating), and contemporary topics are brilliantly satirized: look for sly jabs at Jar Jar Binks, racism, conservative America, and the MPAA itself... not to mention the Broadway musicals from which the film draws much of its inspiration.

Yes, that's right, the film is an all-out musical affair, with lots of singing and dancing. Fear not, however: unlike those in recent Disney features, these tunes are actually memorable, managing to stay imbedded in your head for days afterwards. There's "Mountain Town," the bouncy opening number which extols the virtues of small-town life; the inspirational "What Would Brian Boitano do?"; the villainous "Blame Canada" (which recalls the positively evil "Be Prepared," from "The Lion King"); and a frantic rendition of the toe- tappin' "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch" (an "It's a Small World"-type sing- along), which is guaranteed to offend absolutely everyone.

The irony is that once you get past the language, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut has a more uplifting message than much of the tripe Disney has drummed out in the last ten years. It stresses that we are one planet, and we should treat each other's beliefs with respect and tolerance. It also reminds us that children are people too, and deserve to be treated as thinking creatures, not something that needs to be coddled and shielded from the big bad world. Hear, hear.

Is the movie actually 'good'? That's totally subjective: after all, how does one rate the artistic merit of a surprisingly graphic love scene between Satan and Saddam Hussein? Or of watching a little boy burn himself to death by attempting to light his own flatulance? All I can say is that the movie made me laugh harder than almost any other I've ever seen, and I was actually a bit moved by the strangely sweet yet unapologetically ridiculous final scene. Admittedly, the pace and premise do begin to grow a bit stale by the time the final twenty minutes roll around, but it's a minor drawback: there's so much to see and hear in the first hour that I don't think any fan could possibly be disappointed. If you think you've got the stomach for it, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more daring comedy.

Oh, and Kenny dies.


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