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SOUTH PARK:  BIGGER, LONGER, UNCUT

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes
Director:  Trey Parker
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1, 16x9 Enhanced
Studio:  Paramount            
Features:  3 Trailers
Length:  81 Minutes
Release Date:  November 23, 1999
                         

Film ***

The irony of South Park:  Bigger Longer & Uncut begins when our young heroes Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman go to see the motion picture debut of their favorite television stars, Canada’s own Terrance and Phillip.  This duo had always been rude and crude, but in their own R rated film, they open up with a barrage of swearing and filthy talk the likes of which the kids had never heard.  And, of course, the exact same thing is happening with this movie version of the TV show South Park.  The point where Terrance and Phillip go off the deep end with their language (including a catchy song whose title I can’t even print, but seems to use the F-word more in a couple of minutes than Pulp Fiction in its entirety) is also the point where the envelope pushing SP is doing the same thing.  And we see plenty of offended people at the Terrance and Phillip movie leaving the theatre—something co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone no doubt predicted would happen in real life with their film.  But in a way, it’s just as well.  These are the kind of people for whom this kind of irony would be lost upon.

So, when the kids begin a rampage of dirty talk and sexual euphemisms, it sends shock waves through the small mountain town.  And soon, the parents, for the good and well being of their children, decide to end the influence Terrance and Phillip have over them…by publicly executing the duo at a big USO show, and declaring war on Canada.

The structure of the movie, amusingly enough, plays out like one of those Disney family cartoons complete with beefed up musical production numbers…check out the film’s opening and see if it doesn’t remind you of “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast.  And if you’re a fan of the musical Les Miserables, there are a few numbers designed to allude to it as well, right down to the red and black flag the kids fly for their organization La Resistance, the group that will fight for Terrance and Phillip’s freedom.  And there are plenty of other allusions, too, for those who pay attention or care enough to look for them, like Anne Frank, A Clockwork Orange, and more.  And if you don’t pick up on them, no big loss…it’s still funny.

Parker and Stone obviously wanted to create a film that would offend just about everybody.  I think they succeeded.  My limit was pushed a little bit from time to time, and I don’t consider myself a prude. 

However, there’s a bit more to this film than just “shock art”…there are actually some ideas being presented (always through irony) that don’t lose their points amongst the laughter.  The ridiculous ways the parents go about protecting their kids, for one…they rally, and wave signs, and protest, and ultimately start a war.  What do their children do while they’re away fighting for their well being?  See the Terrance and Phillip movie again, naturally.  Or how about the strange notion that graphic violence is okay for kids to watch, as long as the language is kept clean?  And then, to drive the point home, the film does get ridiculously violent toward the end on top of the endless profanity.  Oh, and the military’s operation “Human Shield” is one of the most hysterical moments in the film…and a point well taken, too.

Where the movie falls short is in the way it tries to milk certain gags for much more than they’re worth.  For example, the idea of Satan and Sadaam Hussein being lovers is kind of funny…but the picture goes back, and back, and back to it until you’re sick of the sight of them.  And the implantation of a V-chip into Cartman’s brain that shocks him whenever he swears…again, funny at first, but soon becomes overused and way too predictable.  But those moments don’t really kill the comic momentum the film maintains…just take it off track for a few feet now and again.

And there are some nice surprises for fans of the show, too.  There are references to even the earliest days of SP, for those who remember the 5 minute animated Christmas card that started it all (brought to life in a terrific little song called “What Would Brian Boitano Do?”).  Oh, and in case you were wondering about whether or not Kenny dies, or how many times he might die…sorry, I’m not telling.  (Weak!)

Video ***1/2

Let’s face it…South Park is as primitive as modern animation can be (a point the picture even kids nicely at one point).  To compare this film to The Iron Giant would be ill-advised.  Being what it is, however, Paramount did a top-notch job with their anamorphic transfer.  Colors are what the film boasts, in large flat patches, but the colors are always good, and images are always sharp, clear, and have well-defined edges, despite the obvious two-dimensionality of the movie. 

Audio ***

The 5.1 soundtrack is very clean and clear, though it mostly comes to life during the many musical numbers, which tend to spread to all channels for added dynamism.  Apart from that, the rears are only occasionally harnessed for some minor sound effects.  The .1 channel gets to kick in during some of the hard rock numbers and the big battle finale.

Features *1/2

Three trailers.

Summary:

I’m going to guess most people will have a pretty good idea what they’re getting into before they even pick up this disc, i.e. those who are fans of the show.  Those who don’t like South Park probably won’t view the movie, and it’s better that way.  Fans will find in the film more of what they love about the show…indeed, bigger and longer.  You’ll laugh a lot.  And you’ll probably be a little offended.  You may even feel like you need to take a long shower afterward.  But there is a method to the madness, and points of irony that won’t be lost on the SP purists.