Wednesday, July 27, 2011

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut An Exceptionally Funny Musical, An Average Film.

The Good: Funny, very funny, Catchy musical numbers.
The Bad: Terrible animation, Light on character development
The Basics: An exceptionally funny movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut has a Canadian film sparking off a war between the U.S. and Canada as a result of children swearing excessively.

Until last night, the most South Park I had watched was about five minutes worth of one of the television episodes. I do not have cable and knowing that the animated comedy is supposed to derive much of its adult humor from language and political situations, I made a conscious effort to avoid the syndicated repeats that began popping up on my broadcast television statements last year when the show was played on the airwaves. But last night, my wife said, "I want to watch the South Park movie; I think you'll like it!" So, she removed the DVD box for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut from her DVD shelf and we sat and watched it. She was right; I did enjoy the movie, but even as it made me laugh a lot, it is hard to consider it a great movie.

A musical, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut - yes, the title is a penis joke, so that pretty much tells you how the film is going to be - is a crudely animated movie which is so self-referential that the jokes are almost entirely aimed at those who hate South Park and crude humor. The movie has predictable character arcs, poorly animated nudity, possibly more swearing than Clerks and a plot that actually develops from one thing to another as the movie progresses. This is actually the first movie in a long time that I have laughed out loud almost entirely through, so I enthusiastically recommend it for anyone who is looking for a good laugh and enjoys raunchy humor with the occasional bit of political social commentary thrown in. But it is what it is and while it is hilarious, it is not a timeless or great cinematic experience.

Happy to live in the redneck town of South Park, the kids of South Park Elementary - Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny - get into the R-rated animated Terrance And Phillip movie, which is a Canadian duo who swear a lot and make constant jokes about farting. Returning to school, the boys become exceptionally popular for having seen the forbidden movie and they begin swearing up a storm. This leads the guidance counselor to rehabilitate them, a process which lasts only as long as until the kids go see the movie again. This leads to Kenny getting killed by lighting his own fart on fire and being sent to Hell.

Furious about this, Kyle's mother, Sheila organizes the PTA and blames Canada for the corruption of the children in the United States. Overwhelming President Clinton, Sheila essentially declares war on Canada by using Conan O'Brien to capture Terrance & Phillip. But, from Hell, Kenny tries to send Cartman a dire message; that Satan and Saddam Hussein will come to take over the Earth if the Canadian comedic duo is killed. Stan tries to impress a girl he likes by becoming more political, Kyle tries to stand up to his mother and Cartman tries to overcome a V-chip installed in his brain as all-out war breaks out between the United States and Canada.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is a relatively short collection of fart jokes, expletives and songs about corruption of minors and foul language. But, to their credit, writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and Pam Brady) make the songs catchy, funny and ultimately memorable. I suppose this ought not to be surprising to me as the same writers did the music for Hamlet 2 and I can still recall the tune to "Rock Me Sexy Jesus." My wife, as it turns out, has been singing me songs from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut for months now and I just did not know the source.

What the film does surprisingly well is tell a story that was socially ahead of its time. in 1999, before the fear-mongering that led the U.S. into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was illustrating just how a few hot heads could set off international turmoil. When the film isn't being socially ahead of its time, it is playing with absurdist humor - Satan and Saddam Hussein are essentially gay lovers and Satan wants to talk, while Saddam just wants to have sex - and showing remarkably astute political humor. In a critique of the Bush Administration, a Barenaked Ladies song ("Fun And Games") references how the poor and black are frequently lured into the military and used as cannon fodder. In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Parker, Stone and Brady make the same observations with the military strategies employed against Canada.

What South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is light on is character development. The love story involving Stan and the area good-girl seems forced and the generic love plot (which only goes so far) feels like exactly what it is. Moreover, Cartman is entirely undeveloped; the is the same crude, foul-mouthed child at the end that he was at the beginning. Even Kyle's attempts to stand up to his mother seem like forced, obvious attempts at character development in a movie that does not actually need it. Instead, most viewers would have been content to just keep the jokes coming; it's that kind of movie.

But this is also where South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut gets itself into some trouble. Amid the jokes about farts and swearing and the political messages, the movie actually goes somewhere. As such, the movie's plot actually starts with one story and turns into another. This is fine, but in tying up the plot, the movie loses some of its punch and the final act has less music, less memorable music, and even less humor. As the war progresses, the movie becomes less funny as the characters try to get themselves out of the situation and the viewer has the feeling the writers were not sure how to both wrap it up and keep it as funny as the first three-quarters.

On DVD, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut comes with only three theatrical trailers as bonus features, at least for the one-disc original version my wife has. Even so, this is not a movie where tons of bonus features would help. The movie feels complete enough without any scenes which may have been deleted and there's hardly a need for a commentary track. This is certainly funny enough to watch, even multiple times, but it's not more than it is. It's a series of poorly animated characters running around swearing and farting. But it feels good to laugh at that.

For other animated movies, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Family Guy Presents: It's A Trap!
The Lord Of The Rings (1978 animated)
Despicable Me


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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