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South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Director: Trey Parker
Rated: R
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: June 1999
Genres: Animation, Comedy

*Also starring: Isaac Hayes, George Clooney, Minnie Driver, Eric Idle, Mike Judge

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Maybe the merchandising gimmick that targets films for particular audiences should be abandoned, or at least modified. Market research people think that they can determine what movies will appeal to distinct age, ethnic and geographical groups. Disney cartoons, for example, are commonly intended for the small fry: parents are just nannies who escort their kids to the animations to make them happy and keep 'em quiet for a while. Yet many adults are fascinated by the simplest of these productions. While a case could be made that 5-year-olds would not appreciate much in a Merchant-Ivory creation, the pros would probably say that "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" would entertain people who are politically liberal, culturally broadminded, under 35 years of age, distrustful of authority, wary of Broadway musicals, with little faith in doctors, government, the military, computer software, and the benefits of life in rural towns. They would probably have cable and would have logged in quite a bit of time on the "South Park" series.

I don't have cable, had never seen a single minute of "South Park," am over 35, can live with authority, have much faith in organized medicine, am addicted to computers, find rural towns clean and quaint, appreciate Broadway musicals, am not attracted to cartoons, and have faith that the military will continue to fight fascism as it has done so well this year. How would I measure up? I'd probably get a rating of about 30% from the "South Park" suits who'd write me off as a potential viewer. What's more I read on the Net from a critic I respect that in his Atlanta community, audience members over the age of 45 began leaving the advance screening in droves halfway into the comparatively brief production.

What a difference an hour or so makes in one's attitude toward something new. Perhaps my never having seen an episode of the TV series was a good thing. The movie came across to me as a fresh display of good, dirty fun, so that while a veteran watcher (like another Net critic I read) concludes his review, "no more 'South Park,' please," my feeling is quite the opposite. I look forward to the sequel.

The film opens on a pristine town, the sort of place that could well be on the Canadian border. The mothers dote on their kids, the snow is pure white, and the people are uniformly saintly. Just a minute passes, though, when director Trey Parker introduces the cynicism that informs the entire script, which has been written by Parker together with Matt Stone and Pam Brady. The homeless are ignored in this authentic redneck village whose eight-year-old kids do their darndest to get into an R-rated movie, bribing a homeless man with money for a bottle of vodka if he would get them the six tickets they need. The movie, "Asses of Fire," stars the Canadian comedy team Terrance and Philip, whose incessant vulgarity is picked up by the kids (just as the MPAA knew it would be). As the youngsters curse their way through the school day, leading the authorities to call in their parents and set up counseling sessions, one mother leads women throughout the area in a demonstration against Canadian film-makers, culminating in a declared war between the U.S. and Canada.

"South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" is rumored to have actually cut two or three minutes to bring it within MPAA guidelines for a R rating--thereby avoiding the dreaded NC-17 assessment. Trey Parker successfully lampoons the movie rating board, doctors, Broadway musicals, parents, kids, governments, the military, feminism, the school system, the political correctness movement, Microsoft, idyllic little towns, and liberal hypocrisy. To do this in one of the briefest films of the year requires a fast pace: "South Park" makes its point in the crispest manner possible, relentlessly alternating spirited songs with a flurry of ribald dialogue. Though one critic has said that "basing an entire film on vulgarity suggests laziness," the sheer variety of skits belies this judgment. Fifteen songs, including the riotous "Blame Canada" and "Mountain Town," inhabit this witty parody. While the subjects are sitting ducks for this sort of burlesque (in one case a newscaster suggests that Canada has put out peace feelers but here in the U.S. "as usual we're not listening"), the obscene vituperations come from the mouths of babes, making "South Park" a creative take on the genre. A considerable portion of the film--specifically the scenes involving Satan and his relationship with Saddam Hussein--do not work. Saddam is so weakly lampooned that the Iraqi dictator could almost clear the scenes for his country's TV. But generally, the dialogue, songs and colorful animation, tossed at us in an energetic manner and rapid pace that dare us to blink, make "South Park" an entertaining little treat whose meanspiritedness might well bring smiles, guffaws-- even an occasional "oooo"--to your face.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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