South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999)

Leaving the cinema – having bribed a homeless person to sneak them into Terrence and Phillip’s new movie: Asses of Fire – Cartman (Trey Parker) bets Kenny (Matt Stone) that he cannot light his fart on fire. Burning to death in the process of proving Cartman wrong, Kenny is damned to Hell where he meets Satan and the devil’s lover-in-crime, Saddam Hussein. Back on Earth, the parents of South Park ban the movie, grounding Cartman, Stan (Trey Parker) and Kyle (Matt Stone) for going back to see the film again. When America wages war on Canada, vowing to kill the captured Terrence and Phillip during the next USO show, the town’s kids form La Resistance and set out to free their childhood heroes from Kyle’s mum’s Ministry of Offence, getting in the way of Stan’s own quest to find The Clitoris and make Wendy like him. Meanwhile, in Hell, Kenny learns that should the Canadian film star die, Satan and Saddam will have dominion over Earth.

It has been over ten years since South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s animated sitcom of comradeship and controversy, graced the big screen. Now in its fifteenth season, the show has won countless awards, outraged innumerable organisations and individuals, and commented on everything from religion to politics to Steve Irwin’s tragic death-by-stingray. While the show itself has been prone to the odd dud note – and episode (something with which the creators are more than willing to agree) – the 1999 movie gave Parker and Stone a chance to go to work on a grander canvass and without the timing constraints inherent in network television.

In contrast, the film is brilliant from beginning to end; an absolute masterclass in comedy, outsmarting and out-grossing many straighter (and less controversial) genre offerings. Tightly structured, commendably bold and beautifully written, the film packs a truly astonishing number of gags into its running time. Taking censorship as its target, the film mounts a wonderfully satirical attack on the MPAA, making light of the criticisms levelled at the show’s relaxed attitude towards profanity (the word fuck is said 139 times). Parker and Stone’s wit is razor sharp, tearing through America’s attitudes towards sex, race and naughty language with an efficiency and ruthless glee that helps make the social commentary all the more potent.

On top of the comedy and the critique, however, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is also a no-holds-barred musical, and a cracking one at that. Poking fun at the genre conventions established both through Broadway stage shows and Golden Age Disney, the film also serves as a credible and respected entry in the genre in its own right – even going so far as to earn a place on the American Film Institute’s list of the Greatest American Musicals. The songs are ridiculously catchy, forgoing the usual odes to love and self-actualisation in favour of ditties about the evils of Canada, Saddam Hussein’s proclivity for change and how Kyle’s mum is a big, fat, fucking bitch. Written by Trey Parker and composed by Marc Shaiman, the music of South Park is every bit as note-perfect and smarting as the film itself.

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut goes far beyond mere toilet humour (which anyone can do, even – as one character points out – Nickelodeon), it also takes the time to craft a truly intelligent story which gives the characters room to breathe and even, dare I say it, grow. It’s also more than just a feature length episode of the TV series, boasting superior animation and a renewed focus which screams quality as often as it does bad language. The injokes and references to previous episodes are of course present and correct – from Cartman’s trademark pronunciation of ‘authority’ to the aliens in the final track – but the film also pushes boundaries and the show’s own mythology to new, often dizzying heights – even going so far as to be genuinely charming. Stan’s subplot in particular is uncharacteristically sweet, giving the film a poignancy every match for its caustic potency.

Consistently entertaining, beautifully offensive and endlessly rewatchable, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is without a doubt one of the greatest musicals ever written. It is also a good-humoured, but nevertheless well thought out, critique of cinematic censorship, peaking with the reveal of a profanity-proof V-Chip. Whether it’s lampooning German fetish porn, America’s Foreign Affairs policy or Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the South Park movie really is a rare beast: a comedy that actually delivers on its comic potential.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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