This review was originally written as part of my USA Road Trip series for French Toast Sunday.
I used to watch South Park when I was a teenager. It was the kind of seemingly juvenile, vulgar and immature gross-out humour that my parents probably would have greatly disapproved of had they known I was watching it, or even what South Park was, as they presumably just assumed it was some kind of shoddy animated show for kids that I’d eventually grow out of, and to a certain respect I did. I haven’t seen the show in many years – I think I only ever saw the first season or two – and I’d never seen the film before, but it being set in Colorado was a perfect opportunity for me to catch up. Unfortunately, the humour just wasn’t what I remember it being.
It’s not that I think the humour has dried up, it’s more a case of I don’t think it was funny to begin with. You see, I’m pretty sure the reason I liked it as a kid was because it seemed forbidden and naughty; watching it was an act of rebellion, a secret to be kept from those in authority, and now I’m an adult no such secret needs to be kept, so I’ve no way to actually enjoy this any more.
It’s not that it’s crude – because it is – and I don’t necessarily mind crude comedy, it’s more that I just didn’t find any of it particularly funny. The premise of the show, if you’re unfamiliar, is four kids – Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny, all voiced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as are most of the characters – go about their lives in an alternate world where Satan can crop up, Jesus has a talk show, adults are for the most part utter fools, particularly men, and all anyone ever thinks about is sex. The film picks up from this, and begins with a movie-within-the-movie starring the kids’ favourite TV stars Terrance and Phillip, who are Canadian and therefore have bizarre heads which separate during speech, and sticks for arms. The Terrance and Phillip film, Asses of Fire, is essentially 90 minutes of fart jokes, interspersed with an awful lot of swearing. Such language is new to the kids, and when they repeat it outside of the cinema all the adults in their town go on a crusade against the film, which eventually escalates to a war on Canada, with the kids attempting to stop it at all costs. Oh, and Kenny, who dies early on, as per every episode of the show, meets up with Satan in Hell, only to find he is Saddam Hussein’s gay lover, and the couple aren’t having the most romantic relationship.
In that set-up there’s a few nice ideas, and I think I chuckled at the notion of Satan and Saddam being a couple, with the notion being that Saddam is almost abusive towards the devil, but it’s not enough to sustain my entertainment over the course of what is a very short film, clocking in at just 77 minutes. And even with such a slim run time, it still dragged on several occasions. The only moments when it felt genuinely inspired or original were the elements of satire. Upon finding their children have increased their vocabulary in unwanted directions, the parents of the town’s children – led by Kyle’s mother Sheila, voiced by Mary Kay Bergman – sing a song called Blame Canada, which hits the nail squarely on the head with regards to the parents who are quick to blame any possible influence other than their own as to why their children are behaving badly.
Oh, that’s right, this is a musical. I didn’t see that coming. I’d heard a song from this film was nominated for an Academy Award (the aforementioned Blame Canada, which lost out to Phil Collins’ You’ll Be In My Heart from Tarzan) and I’d heard about something known as Uncle Fucker, but I wasn’t expecting a full blown musical show. Some of the songs are fine, but my biggest issue with them was that a lot of the lyrics were garbled and unintelligible. For an often dialogue-based comedy film, that’s a major hindrance when a great deal of the jokes can’t be made out.
There’s some decent cameos – George Clooney shows up to parody his own stint on E.R. as a doctor who manages to mistake a baked potato for a heart – but for the most part this all fell flat. Stan’s desperate search for the clitoris was just weird, and even after researching who he is, I can’t quite comprehend why there is an entire song about Brian Boitano, a name I’d never even heard before watching this film.
Choose Life 5/10
Interesting. I’m a bit older and was already an adult when South Park was big. I watched it on occasion and enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the movie, but it’s been forever since I’ve seen it, certainly before my “movie buff” days. I’ve been planning on revisiting this one of these days to see how it holds up. Great review.
Maybe if you were a bigger fan of the TV series, at an age when you could reputably like it for what it was and not because others would disapprove, then I think you’ve got more of a chance at appreciating the film, or at least remembering it well for nostalgia’s sake.
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