Movies We Like
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
1999 a very good year for animated films, the crop included The Iron Giant, Princess Mononoke, Tarzan, Toy Story 2.
It was a great year for movies period…Election, Being John Malkovich, The Insider, Boys Don’t Cry, One Day In September, The End Of The Affair, All About My Mother, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Topsy-Turvy, just to name a few.
But the best animated film and one of the best movies of that year was South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Forget 1999, it may be one of the funniest movies of all-time, certainly up there with This Is Spinal Tap, A Night At The Opera, the films of WC Fields, the three early films of Albert Brooks (as well as his shorts), Animal House, Borat and the '70s comedies of Woody Allen.
The film is based on the sometimes-controversial animated television series created by Trey Parker (the credited director) and Matt Stone. The crudely drawn show (crude on purpose - it’s actually crude in a specifically stylish way) follows the exploits of four adolescent boys in the "redneck" town of South Park, Colorado, along with the town's other colorful inhabitants.
The third graders Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny manage to sneak into the R-rated film Asses of Fire, staring the farting and vulgar Canadian comedy duo of Terrence and Philip. Influenced by the film, the boys' vocabulary changes, now becoming foul-mouthed to the extreme, which leads Kyle’s mom to start a campaign against Canada that eventually leads to war with our Northern neighbors. Obviously it’s spoofing its own reputation by loud-mouth parents and do-gooders who scream about the negative influence South Park may have on their kids. In the movie, like real life, people often go to dangerous and unwarranted extremes to protect their children from potty-mouth.
Among the many plots that zigzag though the story Kenny dies and goes to Hell, where he gets involved with Satan and Saddam Hussein (this was long before his actual death), who are lovers. The government is going to execute Terrence and Philip at the big USO show (where for entertainment Winona Ryder shoots ping pong balls out of her privates). The boys get involved with La Resistance to save their Canadian heroes, while in Hell Kenny works to stop the apocalypse from happening.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is a movie; it’s not an extended episode, which the somewhat disappointing The Simpsons Movie could be accused of. It takes what works on the show and multiplies it. Where the show is hit-or-miss episode and joke wise, the film is pure gold, always smart and pushing the humor, upping the ante for the characters.
Also it should be reported this is a musical, with full-on songs and musical numbers. Frankly, though humorous, the songs are more memorable than the music of most straight-up musicals. The songs also perfectly spoof the Disney love ballads of the '90s. You can picture the smug self-seriousness of The Little Mermaid or The Lion King when Satan sings the song "Up There," craving a life on earth: "up there there is so much room. Where babies burp and flowers bloom. Everyone dreams, I can dream too." This could be one of those power-pop ballads that Elton John or Phil Collins may have written for Disney. Even with a song like this, a scene like that one, the funny is in the smart, not in the immediate jokes.
Other songs including, "Mountain Town," "Blame Canada," and "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" ("…If he were here today, I'm sure he'd kick an ass or two, that's what Brian Boitano'd do.") The writing of these tunes is rich in both their comedy and their musical composition. Thee songs manage to spoof a number of American musical styles of the 20th Century, from Gene Kelly to musicals like Bye Bye Birdie and Les MisÃ©rables, to moments in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Eric Cartman's little ragtime ditty, "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch" is a real scene-stealer, cursing out Kyle’s mom in multiple ethnic stereotypes from around the world. Gershwin would love it.
Parker and Stone’s big screen follow-up, the profane marionette epic, Team America: World Police, has some amazingly funny moments, but on the whole it didn’t work as well as South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. In some ways the songs too perfectly capture the Broadway style, making them as boring as a Broadway show. And the humor of the latter film gets so self-righteous in its send up of Hollywood egos that it comes off as overly mean. Whereas with South Park the characters are so naive and almost innocent that they can get away with the filmmakers' cantankerous attitudes to the world around them. With all the lazy comedies that are released in the theaters and straight to DVD on a weekly basis, the world could use another South Park movie, to show what true comedy ambition and brains can do.