We were basically the two guys who didn't want to make black-and-white lesbian art films
- Matt Stone
The cult of "South Park" had its humble beginning back in 1995, when two Colorado University film students, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, collaborated to create "The Spirit of Christmas", an animated ditty that featured Baby Jesus going mano-a-mano against a mutated Frosty the Snowman. With their combined talent and twisted sense of humor, the duo went on to create "Alferd Packer: The Musical", a rousing pageant in the tradition of "Oklahoma!" centering around the only American ever convicted of cannibalism. This $120,000 feature film won the pair further acclaim at numerous festivals and screenings, including a distribution deal from Troma Films, which released it domestically under the title "Cannibal: The Musical".
However, the big break for Parker and Stone came in 1996 when both "The Spirit of Christmas" and "Cannibal: The Musical" came across the desk of Brian Graden, a Fox TV executive. Impressed by their talent, Graden requested a second version of "The Spirit of Christmas" (this time around, it featured a battle royale between Jesus and Santa), which was sent around Hollywood as a video Christmas card. The second version of the animated Christmas story quickly gained notoriety in Hollywood circles, and pretty soon they were inundated with production deals. Parker and Stone ultimately created a pilot for a new animated series for the Comedy Central network. Despite some dismal test screenings, Comedy Central decided to take a chance on the duo. And thus, "South Park", the wildly popular animated series, hit the airwaves.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past few years, "South Park" revolves around the absurd travails of four foul-mouthed third-graders living in the town of South Park, Colorado. A school cafeteria chef that sings raunchy songs. Aliens with a penchant for probing. A mindless animated series from Canada entitled "Terrance & Philip". A teacher of ambiguous sexual orientation who uses a hand puppet. The unending parade of death on a poor kid named Kenny. Saddam 'hey! take it easy! relax!' Hussein. Big Gay Al and his boat ride. Mr. Hankey. These are just some of the ludicrous comedic bits that have become part of our vernacular, thanks to "South Park". And though the popularity of the series has waned somewhat in recent months, Parker and Stone have done it again with the feature film based on their filthy-minded franchise, "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut".
The plot of the "South Park" movie is a bit of a self-referential joke: the latest "Terrance & Philip" movie, the animated exploits of two Canadians who rely solely on flatulance for humor, has just opened in the theaters of the 'white trash/redneck' town of South Park. Being avid "Terrance & Philip" fans, Stan (voiced by Parker), Cartman (Parker), Kyle (voiced by Stone), and Kenny (Stone) head down to the local theater. However, they are shocked to learn that the movie is restricted and that they are not allowed entry unless they have an adult accompanying them. Undaunted, the four friends conspire their way into the movie, where their tender ears are subjected to a non-stop onslaught of four-letter obscenities and mindless fart jokes.
Not surprisingly, the movie has a profound effect on the third-graders, who begin mouthing the obscenities that they have just been enlightened to. Pretty soon, all the children of South Park have seen the "Terrance & Philip" movie, and the classroom becomes home to wildly inappropriate language. Disgusted by the effect that the movie has had on their children, the good citizens of South Park, led by Kyle's mom (Mary Kay Bergman), begin an anti-Canadian campaign. The campaign grows momentum and soon spreads across the country. The movement quickly lands the real Terrance and Philip in jail to await execution, which ultimately escalates into a full-scale war between the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, down in Hell, a scheme is being hatched by Satan and his new live-in love, Saddam Hussein, who plan to take over the world once the shooting begins up on Earth.
This latest version of "South Park" is an illustration of what the animated series would be like unconstrained by 'trivial technicalities' such as broadcast standards. "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" was originally rated NC-17 prior to some last-minute editing which barely brought it down to an R rating. This movie is definitely not for children, nor for the faint of heart. It has been a very long time that I remember sitting through a film packed with so much lewd material and offensive subject matter. However, despite the movie's excessive reliance on toilet humor, "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" lives up to its promise, and is a lot more intelligent than it lets on.
Like the television series from which it was spawned, the "South Park" movie actually has a redeeming message beneath all the scatological humor. In this case, the film speaks to issues of tolerance and censorship, though in an irreverent, unexpected, and wildly absurd manner. The acerbic wit of Parker and Stone's script takes heavy swipes at a number of different topics, including the misguided deeds of the American crybaby culture, the military, the Presidency, USO shows, Bill Gates, and the MPAA's credo that 'as long as there is no swearing, violence is okay'. "South Park" may have a reputation for dispensing humor that speaks to the lowest common denominator, but this is quickly dispelled by the movie's sharp-edged satire and cleverly-constructed gags. This is one movie you will have to watch at least twice to catch all the sight gags and 'easter egg' humor (in the film's final stretch, a character's watch reads' Third Act: The Ticking Clock').
While the animation in the movie is identical to the 'paper cut-out' look of the series, Parker and Stone have taken advantage of the larger canvas to create an experience that goes beyond that of the small screen. Utilizing some well-placed computer graphics and traditional cinematographic techniques, "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" is a feast for the eyes. And though Parker and Stone continue their long tradition of doing as many character voices as possible, the movie is chock full of some high-profile celebrity voices, including George Clooney ("Out of Sight"), Minnie Driver ("Good Will Hunting"), Brent Spiner ("Star Trek: Insurrection"), and "South Park" regular, Isaac Hayes.
In addition, Parker and Stone have effectively parodied the animated musical formula that Walt Disney has made an institution. The lavishly-visualized and well-orchestrated musical productions are easily the movie's greatest assets, with excellent arrangements and laugh-out-loud funny lyrics, many of which cannot be repeated here. Some of the more memorable numbers include Terrance & Philip's hilarious 'rap video', a Broadway-style rendition of the perennial favorite "Kyle's Mom is a Bitch", a poignant ballad belted out by Satan (who yearns to live in the world 'up there'), and a grand production in the third act that unites the various story threads in a resounding chorus.
Yes, "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" may be bold, salacious, and downright tasteless at times, but it is also a very clever satire that is more often hilarious than not. Those easily offended or with young children may want to stay away, but for everyone else, this movie lives up to the covenant laid down by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" is easily the funniest comic diversion of the summer, and it would be a shame to miss it.