South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
When the television series South Park premiered on Comedy Central in the summer of 1997, it became an instant cult
classic. The adventures of four foul-mouthed elementary school boys in a rural Colorado town featured crude animation
(resembling construction paper cutouts) and a biting satirical edge that most of the time was on target. It was only a matter of
time before Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny hit the big screen.
The men behind South Park are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and they have had mixed success in their other feature
outings. While still in college, Parker wrote and directed a musical film based on the true story of a Civil War veteran who
confessed to cannibalism. Orgazmo (1996), which took on religion, pornography and martial arts flicks, was intermittently
inspired. BASEketball (1998), in which Parker and Stone starred, also had its moments, although they did not write that
script. See a pattern? Smart ideas, execution that aren't completely successful. Now we get South Park: Bigger, Longer,
Uncut.
Much has been made of the problems Parker and Stone encountered with the MPAA over their early work, and this film
(from its double entendre title—which reportedly very few people picked up on) to its basic plot plays as a challenge to the
ratings board. Reportedly, this feature underwent numerous cuts to avoid an NC-17 rating. Now how crazy is that? This
isn't Fritz the Cat. The MPAA seeming overreacts to any implications of sex, even in what is essentially a cartoon. Yes,
there are jokes about sex toys, a gay relationship between Satan and Saddam Hussein (you have to see the film!), some
attacks on religion and much scatological language. But an NC-17 rating! It's no wonder Parker and Stone built their main
story around censorship.
The main story arc revolves around a pair of Canadian performers, Terrence and Philip, who are starring in an R-rated film
called Asses of Fire. The boys conspire to sneak into a screening and emerge with a more colorful vocabulary, to say the
least. Kenny (who is "killed" weekly on the TV series) here self-immolates and is sent to hell where he becomes a counselor
to the Devil who is having problems in his relationship with a certain Iraqi dictator. Back at home, Kyle's mother blames
Canada for the corruption of the children and spearheads an anti-Canada campaign that eventually leads to war. Oh, yeah.
Did I also mention this was a musical?
Some of the more inspired moments in the film stem from the songs (co-written by Parker and Oscar-nominee Marc
Shaiman). The opening sequence, in which Stan sings about his home-town, is a direct steal from Disney's animated Beauty
and the Beast. Satan has a number longing to be Up There which echoes Ariel's lament to be Part of Your World in The
Little Mermaid. A couple of other production numbers are amusing, like Kyle's Mom's a Bitch, It's Easy, Mmmkay (which
purports to cure the children from using bad language), and the highly amusing What Would Brian Boitano Do?. On the
other hand, the Broadway parodies, ranging from West Side Story to Les Miserables have been done better by others (see
the TV series Stephen Spielberg Presents Animaniacs, for example).
Like the weekly TV show, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut doesn't always succeed in hitting its targets. The jokes vary
from those that induce belly-laughs to groaners. One of the biggest flaws in the work of Parker and Stone is that they are not
able to focus completely. While an argument could be made that they are merely reflecting the mentality of an eight-year-old,
I would say that in order for a feature to work, it needs a consistent tone. If they had focused more on the ramifications of
censorship and the need for parents to take a calm approach to the issue, there would have been plenty of material. The
subplot with Satan and Saddam, while providing some humor, really didn't belong in the film. I guess they were trying to live
up to the title by indeed being "uncut". Overall, there are some strong points being made, and it is to the credit of Parker and
Stone that the film provides what enjoyment it does. I just wish it had been tighter and more focused. Maybe next time.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, a Paramount Pictures release rated R (for language), opened on June 30, 1999
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.