||South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
1999 - R - 81 Mins.
|Director: Trey Parker|
|Producer: Trey Parker and Matt Stone|
|Written By: Trey Parker and Matt Stone|
|Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes, Jesse Howell |
|Review by: John Ulmer
“South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been major protestors against the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) since one of their 1997 film, “Orgazmo,” was tagged with an NC-17 rating due to strong language and pervasive sexual content. But nothing reaches the MPAA-busting, low standards of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” (1999). This, an animated feature film spin-off of the immensely popular cult television show from Comedy Central, is one of the most deliberately profane, vulgar and controversial films I have ever seen – and, like many controversial films, it is a social satire with bite.
The movie is funny, and it has its fair share of hilarious moments, but it isn’t great by any means – and often goes searching for laughs in all the wrong places. Still, one has to admire the guts of Parker and Stone – who also voice most of the characters in the movie. I never thought I’d see so many racial stereotypes packed into a single movie – much less an animated one. I never thought I’d see young (albeit animated) children using four-letter words with such pride. I never thought I’d see Saddam Hussein and Satan having a homosexual affair. Then again, I never thought I’d really see anything remotely close to the content in general that exists within “South Park” the movie.
Fans of the TV show will already be familiar with the characters: four animated kids named Kenny, Kyle, Stan and Cartman. “Uncut” opens with a cheery musical number and rapidly moves towards vulgarity as the “innocent” children sneak into an R-rated movie starring their boyhood idols, the foul-mouthed Canadian duo Terrence and Philip, whose combined humor consists of bodily function gags and songs with extreme profanity. (“What did he say?” one of the boys mutters in the theater after the first expletive is heard.)
Terrence and Philip’s movie becomes number one at the box office, inspiring many local children to start frequently swearing. The parents of South Park decide to launch a campaign named Mothers Against Canada (MAC), with the sole intent of starting a war between the U.S. and our neighbors to the north.
If Terrence and Philip are killed, Satan and a recently deceased Saddam Hussein (the character of which is actually represented by real photos of Hussein blended with animation) will rise from the bowels of Hell and take over the world. Terrence and Philip’s death somehow – for one reason or another – signifies the coming of the apocalypse, and Kenny – who dies early on in the film, goes to Hell and realizes Satan’s plan – rises back to Earth as a ghostly image and tells his friends they must stop the war.
I think Trey Parker and Matt Stone are making a statement here, not just about war in general but also about what they believe is “censorship” by the MPAA and their absurd standards (as one character sings in a musical number, it’s okay to show nasty blood and guts – but just don’t say any naughty words!). And it’s quite obvious that “Terrence and Philip” are metaphors for the creators of “South Park,” and the reaction of the public in the film is an eerie foreshadowing of the controversy surrounding the “real” film’s release. It’s a clever bit of self-parody that works quite well. I don’t think anyone can say that “South Park” is dumb, even if it’s immature.
Canadians in “South Park” are represented by crude stick figures with heads that part at the mouth into two pieces, flapping about as they “talk.” The animation on the Americans isn’t much better – very, very basic drawings. In a bit of a self-referential stab, one of the kids in the film says that he likes Terrence & Philip, but “the animation sucks.”
“South Park” is both anti-Semitic and racist. Packaged along with more than a handful of scatological references are cruel jokes surrounding ethnicity. There are running gags about Jewish residents of South Park, as well as African-Americans and, of course, Canadians. However juvenile their jokes may be, Parker and Stone manage to make us laugh – even though we may sometimes feel disturbed by doing so. And one can’t help but realize that a lot of the racial jokes are satirical – such as when the Army decides to launch an attack against Canada, and a platoon of black soldiers are used as the “human shield.” The movie is often trying to say something important, which isn’t at all what I had expected – and the notion of America trying to blame other countries for its fault (in this case, Canada) isn’t so far-fetched.
“South Park” contains less profanity than “Scarface,” “Pulp Fiction,” “GoodFellas,” and “American History X,” among others, but it’s known for its strong language. It constantly pops up on Internet message boards as one of “the” most profane films of all time, despite the fact that according to official sources it contains less than half the amount of foul language found in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino.”
So why are so many people convinced that it was the most profane language movie of all-time? Well, part of the reason is its length – barely more than 80 minutes – and I’m sure another large issue is the fact that it’s animated, and all the profanity is delivered at a rapid speed, mostly by supposed “children” (who look like big blobs of cardboard). And, unlike more serious films, the profanity in “South Park” is there for no reason at all – at least not in the same context as dramas. In an interview, director Trey Parker claimed that the intent of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” was to shock. And indeed, if that was his point then he and co-writer Stone have succeeded – this is a revolutionary advancement in mainstream entertainment. The MPAA is constantly stretching its boundaries, and with “South Park” – which they originally gave an NC-17 classification prior to certain scenes being deleted by Parker – they really have shamed themselves.
I liked “South Park,” a number of scenes made me laugh and I was very amused overall. No fault can be found in its short length, either – had it dragged out another twenty minutes, perhaps it would have seemed too long, but its current runtime is appropriate given the material. Not all the jokes work, and sometimes the film just goes too far – but if you’re looking for something funny, and you have an open mind and aren’t easily offended, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” is a worthy recommendation.