It’s customary when reviewing the latest animated releases to comment on their stunning visuals and/or famous voice casts. Even upon its 1999 release, however, critics of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut would have been hard-pressed to find anything to say on the subject of either.
Inheriting both its characteristic cut-out stop-motion animation and in-house voice actors from the television series it was based on, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut had to find new ways of differentiating itself from the half-hour episodes aired on Comedy Central. Co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, convinced that the show had almost run its course, decided to make the film a musical.
Satirising everything from traditional Disney to the MPAA, the film draws on elements from the season one episode “Death” in a story that sees the parents of South Park, Colorado, attempting to ban an offensive movie from Canada — Terrance and Phillip’s Asses Of Fire — resulting in death, war and the end of the world. Having fought Paramount Pictures for the right to make an R-rated film, Stone and Parker pack in as much profanity, nudity and violence as the certificate (and their new medium) could ever possibly allow.
But while ridiculously crude songs might have helped it bag the world record for swear words in an animated film, they are also show-stopping musical numbers in their own right. Each song parodies a particular Broadway style, opening with the Oaklahoma-esque ‘Mountain Town’ before marrying each of the individual tracks in ‘La Resistance’, a medley straight out of Les Miserables. Co-written by Stone, Parker and Marc Shaiman, it is the Oscar-nominated Blame Canada that really steals the show, however, with each listen revealing new depths of meaning. It is little wonder that their most recent collaboration, The Book Of Mormon, has been so eagerly anticipated, and so well received.
Both an admirable animation and a masterful musical, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is also one of the funniest comedies that you are ever likely to see. While astute in its critique of censorship and backwater American ignorance, it’s the film’s larger-than-life characters and witty one-liners that make it so incredibly entertaining, with the film adding a whole host of new catchphrases to the show’s already considerable collection. Sheila Broflovski, Chef and Big Gay Al all get their moments to shine, while guest appearances from George Clooney, Brent Spinner and Minnie Driver (as Brooke Shields) are each a joy.
However, as is the case with the television show, it’s the core friendship between Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny that has made South Park so enduring, and unexpectedly endearing. Essentially an ensemble piece, Stone and Parker have done a great job of juggling each character’s individual arcs. The biggest laughs come from Stan’s pursuit to make Wendy like him and Cartman’s struggles with the profanity-inhibiting “V-Chip”, while Kyle carries the emotional brunt of the film as he tries to reconnect with his crusading mother, and Kenny goes to Hell to council Satan over his homosexual relationship with Saddam Hussein.
While South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut may not hold a torch to most of the other animations featured on this blog, then, Stone and Parker’s masterpiece has never been about stunning CG vistas and memorable vocal performances, using the genre instead to tell a story that would have been impossible using live action. The animation is merely a means to an end, allowing the filmmakers to unleash a scathingly satirical, toe-tappingly tunesome and endlessly re-watchable piece of contemporary commentary, and one that is still relevant today. I really can’t recommend it highly enough.
Steven Neish is perhaps one of the few people that loves animation quite as much as I do, but he likes entirely different animated films to me. I don’t even know if he has ever seen a Ghibli film. Fun Steven fact: he once sold his soul to Jeffrey Katzenberg.
If you want to write a Guest Favourite post, please let me know any way you can!