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South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

by on 2011/05/23

 “Remember what the MPAA says:
Horrific deplorable violence is okay as long as people don’t say any naughty words.”

* * * *

Nineteen ninety-nine. Bill Clinton’s in the White House. Bill Gates is flogging Windows 98. The X-Files is lensing in Vancouver. You’ll need to get your mind in gear, referentially speaking, because the South Park movie, Bigger, Longer & Uncut, is heavily rooted back “in the day” as they say.

I didn’t see it at the time, nor the TV show, and I never imagined I’d ever care for either. I saw it about five years later, and it sparked a minor interest. The real kindling came with the first season set, a bargain I couldn’t ignore. Without the feature film, however, I might not have taken the chance.

Fifteen seasons along the show still going strong, and this particular attempt has merit too. On one hand, it feels designed as an entry point for newcomers, explaining its own conventions with devices like the “Mountain Town” song, the introduction of Kyle’s adopted brother Ike, and “The Girl That I Like” song. On the other hand, it also offers changes from the usual South Park fare, including coarser language, more adult concepts, and a great many musical sequences.

The story unifying these elements will seem grand to anyone unfamiliar with the series. In fact, it’s fairly standard stuff, and far less controversial than commentative. The core group of kids — Eric, Kenny, Kyle, and Stan, all voiced by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone — sneak into a foreign (Canadian) film and are impressed by its risque humour. Their parents are shocked by the resulting mimicry, and pressure the government into war with their northern neighbour.

A couple of notions struck me in this viewing. First, and least surprisingly, Parker and Stone are clearly not the xenophobes their characters become (especially Kyle and Ike’s mother, Sheila Broflovski). As much as they mock Canada, they do so in the manner of noted Canadaphiles like Moby, Kevin Smith, or “Weird Al” Yankovic. Their clever sense of satire bears some unexpected barbs.

My second, and slightly more surprising, observation was that those very barbs are placed in positions as masochistic as sadistic. Parker and Stone seem bent on a commitment to creative neutrality. From what I know of their output, they’d be quick to defend their freedom of speech. Yet the very premise of this piece suggests the dangers of an entertainment appealing to an audience which “should not” consume it. That audience risks being changed — or at least influenced — by the work of art’s style and content.

It’s possible a viewer could miss the subtext, given this effort’s provocative decoration. However, legitimate issues are raised with sufficient regularity to preclude any accident:

  • Which is the greater evil . . . coarse language or violence?
  • Where is the line between security and freedom?
  • Does changing behaviour alter intention?

I’m not suggesting the experience is simply an academic meditation. If all you’re interested in seeing is a “potty-mouthed kids on a mission” musical, then South Park’s shallows may do well enough.

It’s not perfect, by any means. The appearance of Saddam Hussein, half an hour in, marks a point when my interest begins to flag. I find his character irritating enough to negate some of the goodwill earned otherwise. Plus, did I mention it’s a musical? Yes, I did, but I didn’t mention counting at least thirteen distinct songs, four of them repeated, and more if you sit through the credits.

Bigger, Longer & Uncut is something of a “very special episode” of South Park, padded with a few too many songs. Although I don’t find it as strong as the shows, it remains a solid entry, especially for newbies. Think of it as an initiation, an introductory trial by fire. If you like it, there’s more (and better) to enjoy. If you don’t, well, it’s got George Clooney doing an E.R. joke, right?

* * * *

Rated R

81 minutes

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5 Comments
  1. Thought 1: Is it possible to submit an indie film for review?
    Thought 2: You guys should add some contact info!

    • Hi Saskia.
      (1) We are absolutely open to any review suggestions. Indie films are of great interest to us both.
      (2) At your suggestion, we have added our direct addresses to the “About” pages.
      Thanks for the ideas!

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