South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Directed by Trey Parker
Cast Voices: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes, George Clooney, Mike Judge, Minnie Driver.
1999 82 minutes
Rated: (for cartoon violence, non-stop profanity, sexual situations, nudity, and everything else under the sun).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 1, 1999.
If you've seen the popular animated television series, "South Park," which airs on cable's Comedy Central, you'll know that each and every episode's purpose is to be as offensive as possible, thus generating laughs of near-disbelief, and these unbelievable storylines ultimately collide with often shocking adult language, particularly for television. Nothing, however, could prepare you for the vulgar, perverse, outrageous, raunchy, filthy-mouthed experience that is "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," the very first big-screen adaptation of the sitcom, directed by Trey Parker. No doubt only saving itself from the NC-17 (No Children Under 17 Admitted) rating because it's a cartoon rather than live-action, the R-rated film is a full-out, and well-articulated, attack on the bogusness of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating system, no doubt due to Parker's unfortunate experience with them last year when they rated his comedy, "Orgazmo," NC-17, even though it had next to no sex and even very little harsh profanity.
As afficionados can attest to, the protagonists of "South Park," a wintry town up north, are a group of potty-mouthed elementary school friends, Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny (whose speech is always muffled due to the tight hood of his jacket, and who dies in a freak accident on each episode, to the exclamation of his friends, "Oh my god, they killed Kenny"). As the film gets rolling, the four boys are excitedly off to see the very first Canadian-made "Terrence and Phillip" movie, based on their own favorite T.V. show about two childish men who fart a lot. Distraught when they are turned away by the theater worker due to its R-rating, they successfully pay a homeless man to get them into the movie, and three hours later, after sitting through an endless stream of shocking curse word upon curse word , come out of the theater with, shall we say, an increased and rather colorful vocabularly. When word gets out about the controversial film, and when all of the children of South Park have been transformed from "innocent" kids into profanity-spewing monsters, the parents, headed by Kyle's witch with a capital "B" mom, create an organization called "Mothers Against Canada," believing that the titled country is at fault for the corruption of today's youth. Soon Terrence and Phillip find themselves facing execution, and it is up to the young South Park gang to band together to set them free and make their elders listen to reason. Meanwhile, Kenny, who is inevitably killed early on and sent to Hell after not being admitted beyond the pearly gates (and naked angels) of Heaven, discovers that Satan and the recently-deceased Saddam Hussein are full-fledged lovers plotting to take over the world of the living the minute the guilty television duo are murdered.
What may surprise "South Park" fans is not only how far this film goes over the deep end of tastelessness, but that it is a musical, albeit a demented Disney-style one. Filmmaker Trey Parker (who also does many of the voices along with partner Matt Stone) has had a talent of creating memorable tunes, from 1997's bloody comedy, "Cannibal: The Musical," to "Orgazmo," and here he has succeeded once again. Some of the catchy showstoppers include "Uncle Fu**a," which literally caused me to laugh so hard I teared up, to "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch," whose lyrics are hysterically translated into several foreign languages, to "I Can Change," a solemn solo song sung by Saddam Hussein, who wants to prove to Satan that he cares about more than just meaningless sex with him.
Loaded with a non-stop barrage of exaggerated profanities, including at least 100 uses of the F-word alone, the film goes so far in the opposite direction of how "cute 'n' cuddly" animated films are supposed to be made, you can't help but simply laugh with an equal measure of shock and glee at the overall craziness, as well as brazenness, of it all.
Also, as is usual with the show, the film has targeted many celebrities, both living and dead, and has used them as the butt of a many insulting jokes. Most uproarious honors go to the Baldwin brothers, Brooke Shields (voiced by Minnie Driver), the late George Burns, and especially Winona Ryder (who is portrayed doing something truly unthinkable with a round of ping pong balls). Nary a target is left unabused by director Parker: politicians, right-wing extremists, organizations, gays, Jews, religion, small-town family "values," and at the forefront, the rating system. Usually a bad sign signifying an absence of thought, the movie also includes as many sex, language, bathroom, and fart jokes to last a lifetime, and to my amazement, they actually work here because there is a bit of sly wit behind the more showy humor.
I'd love to say "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" is a great movie, both for its forthright willingness to gain laughs and courageousness in the mainstream film industry, but there are several problems to be had. For one, at an already-brief 82 minutes (which may seem rather pat), the picture overstays its welcome and runs out of a lot of steam in its climax. It never grows boring or even tedious, but the jokes (or at least the ones that work) slow down quite a bit. Tight editing of maybe ten minutes might have done the trick to keep the pace, and fun, at a maximum level. There was also a minor height of disappointment in that one of the show's most rib-ticklingly hilarious characters, Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo, is nowhere to be found. One of the series' running characters, Chef (voiced by Isaac Hayes), also doesn't obtain an ample amount of screen time, and in a movie filled with music, is unfairly not given one song to sing. A rousing rendition of his classic "Salty Balls" would have definately done the trick.
Still, it is extremely difficult to adapt a 30-minute cartoon of the same brand of extreme humor to almost an hour-and-a-half, but Parker has done a fabulous job under the circumstances, proving that not only is he good with voices, but is also a fine director and a smart writer who knows how to steal laughs from an audience. Something tells me that not only will fans of "South Park" like this first foray into feature films, but those unfamiliar with the series will also quickly catch on to the hard-edged humor and end up being won over themselves at the sheer stupidity of it all. I'm not sure a second "South Park" movie would be a good idea (after all, what could possibly be done the next time around that wasn't done here?), but as it stands alone, you almost certainly couldn't find a funnier, or (disregarding its mediocre finale) more entertaining, movie out in theaters right now.
©1999 by Dustin Putman