by Miguel E. Rodriguez
DIRECTOR: Trey Parker
CAST: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes
MY RATING: 9/10
ROTTEN TOMATOMETER: 80% Certified Fresh
Everyone’s a Critic Category: “Watch a Movie Based on a TV Series”
PLOT: When the overprotective mothers of South Park convince America to go to war with Canada over a Canadian R-rated cartoon (wink, wink), they unwittingly set off a chain of events that could lead to global apocalypse.
I sat down and watched South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut for perhaps the fifteenth or twentieth time in my life. My mind went back to the first time seeing it in movie theaters in 1999, one of the single greatest years of American cinema since 1939. [Fight Club, The Insider, American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, The Iron Giant, Galaxy Quest, Three Kings, need I go on?] I recall laughing and laughing and laughing, then forcing myself to be quiet so I could hear the next joke, and then laughing some more. I recall being shocked, yes, SHOCKED to hear such salty language coming from the mouths of animated children. I had seen the first season or so of the TV series, especially the pilot featuring the battle between Santa Claus and Jesus, and the aliens who force Cartman to sing, so I was not unfamiliar with the formula.
And yet, as transgressively funny as the TV show was, here comes the movie, which featured, among other things I’m sure I’m forgetting:
- Several uses of the “F” word. (Not THAT one, the OTHER one.)
- A socially unacceptable use of the word “retard.”
- A very brief glimpse of a white character in blackface.
- A character who uses very naughty language to describe God.
- Satan and Saddam Hussein having conjugal relations in Hell.
- A song with a passage containing musical farts.
…the list goes on. (One of my favorite exchanges: “Haven’t you heard of the Emancipation Proclamation?!” “…I don’t listen to hip-hop.”)
These are the kinds of jokes you only repeat to your friends when you’re certain there are no eavesdroppers. Heck, some of them I wouldn’t repeat to my best friend on a desert island. But I must be honest: I laughed and laughed again.
Naturally, the satirical elements are bloody ingenious. The story revolves around our lovable heroes – Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny – sneaking into a Canadian R-rated film based on one of their favorite television shows, “Terrance and Phillip.” The aptly named Asses of Fire seems to contain three hours of nothing but two goofy-looking characters farting, making fart jokes, and singing songs about farting and having carnal relations with your mother’s brother. Our heroes walk out of the movie thoroughly entertained and sporting a new profanity-laden vocabulary that would be right at home in The Aristocrats. When their mothers hear where their precious children heard such foul language, they form a protest group against Canada and sing the Oscar-nominated song (true story!) “Blame Canada,” which contains this revealing line: “We’ve got to blame Canada, we’ve got to make a fuss / Before someone thinks of blaming us!”
To everyone’s great surprise, it turns out these events might bring about a Biblical apocalypse in which Satan will escape Hell and cleanse the Earth, with Saddam Hussein by his side. Because, you know, why not? How this crisis is averted, and how it involves a Clockwork Orange-esque “V-chip” implanted in Cartman’s brain, I would not dream of revealing.
The cleverness of this plot is breathtaking, skewering the concept of forced morality with wit and poop jokes, but something tells me they’re preaching to the choir. The folks who most need to see this film are clearly the ones who will stay the farthest away from it. (In one of Hollywood’s supreme ironies, since “Blame Canada” was Oscar-nominated, that meant it was to be performed at the Oscar ceremony, but the network censors would not allow the singer, Robin Williams [!], to sing the word “fart” on national television. How they got around that absurd logic, I leave it to you and Google to discover.)
This is one of those “review-proof” films, like the Jackass or Scary Movie franchises. You could line up established critics around the block, telling everyone how juvenile and crude and offensive this movie is, and it will not matter a tiny, tiny bit; they made money, and lots of it. I might even agree with those critics to a certain degree. But I cannot deny the fact that tears of laughter rolled down my face when Cartman sang “Kyle’s Mom Is a Big Fat Bitch.” I cannot deny that watching Saddam Hussein’s idea of foreplay made me first recoil, then cackle with more laughter. I cannot deny that my best friend and I still laugh today if one of us starts singing, “Shut your ******* face, uncle ****** / You’re a *****-biting bastard, uncle ******.”
It’s juvenile. It’s rude. It’s socially unacceptable. But sweet baby Jeebus, it is funny.
QUESTIONS FROM EVERYONE’S A CRITIC
Best line or memorable quote?
[I already said what my favorite exchange was, but what the heck I’ll double-dip:]
“Remember what the MPAA says: Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty words! That’s what this war is all about!”
If you have seen the television series, do you prefer the movie or the TV version? Why?
Another moment of full disclosure: I haven’t watched the South Park TV series since shortly after they introduced “Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo.” Honestly, the show’s style of humor started wearing thin, at least for something that aired weekly. I thoroughly enjoyed 80 minutes or so of the movie, but the show itself just got tiresome. (You can’t see it, but I just shrugged.) Even Parker and Stone’s next movie project, Team America: World Police, had its laugh-out-loud moments, but the pinpoint satirical accuracy was missing, and it just seemed mean-spirited compared to the South Park movie. Apparently, my taste for fart jokes and pervasive profanity does have its limits. Who knew?