Most experts point to 1989’s "The Little Mermaid" as the rebirth of American animation. Since that time we have seen many animated blockbusters (mostly from Disney), and while the quality of the films has varied greatly, the technical wizardry of the animation always seems to be improving. With the aid of computers, animators have been able to blend computer generated images with traditional drawings to bring the animation to a new level. So how come an animated film full of construction paper cut-outs became one of the best cartoons in years? "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" may not push the envelope on the technical side (for the most part, it looks just like the TV show), but it does shatter boundaries about everywhere else and ends up being a film to challenge everyone’s sensibilities.
"South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" is based upon the Comedy Central television show. The show is set in South Park, Colorado, a small town filled with many eccentric characters. The story focuses on four young boys; Stan Marsh, the leader of the group, Eric Cartman, the fat, lazy, wise-ass (both voiced by Trey Parker), Kyle Broslofksi, who fears his dominant mom, and Kenny McCormick, the poor boy from the wrong side of the track, whose voice is muffled by his hooded coat (the latter two voiced by Matt Stone). In the film, the boys are excited about seeing the movie "Asses of Fire", starring their two favorite Canadians, Terrance & Phillip. The film is rated R, but they are able to find a way in. "Asses of Fire" is loaded with profanity and sexual references, and the boys can’t believe what they are hearing. After seeing the film, the boys begin to use the blue language from "Asses of Fire." When their parents and school administrators hear this, the boys are in big trouble.
But that’s not where it ends. Kyle’s mom, Shelia Broslofski (voiced by the late Mary Kay Bergman) begins a crusade to see Terrance & Phillip brought to justice. This leads to a war breaking out between the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, Stan is dealing with a new rival for his girlfriend Wendy Testaburger, Cartman has a radical treatment to stop his foul language, Kenny must deal with Satan, and Kyle must find the courage to stop his mother. As wild as all of this may sound, it’s all neatly wrapped up at the end. There are several things that are surprising about "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut". The first thing is that the movie is a musical. And not just any musical, but a darn good musical. As a friend of mine said, "Disney only wishes its songs were this catchy." From the opening number "Mountain Town" to Terrance & Phillip’s "Uncle F**ka", the songs are fun and memorable. Most of the songs were written by co-creator Trey Parker and Hollywood composer Marc Shaiman. And while the majority of the songs rip-off more famous musical numbers, this just adds to their outrageousness. (I know people who hated the movie who still came out of it humming "Uncle F**ka".)
The second surprising thing about the movie is the cohesiveness of the plot. I find the TV show to be very hit or miss. Typically they will come up with a clever idea (see their recent spoof of Pokemon), but there’s little follow-through. In the movie, things get really weird, with several sub-plots, but it all comes together at the end. Every character ends up playing some minor role in moving the plot along. Things that seemed silly and inconsequential end up playing a major role in the finale. I haven’t seen many live-action films lately that had the kind of broad, yet linear storyline that "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" has.
The most surprising thing about the movie is how shocking it is. While the TV show pushes the boundaries of good taste that can be portrayed on television, the film dispenses with any niceties and goes for the jugular. One thing that can be said for Parker and Stone is that they are equal opportunity offenders. They skewer everyone and everything here and are never subtle about it. From religion to sexual preference to race, nothing is safe.
I say this as a warning to those of you who find the TV show rather cute. There are some cute things in the film, but for the most part, it is no-holds-barred insanity from wall-to-wall, and if you are easily offended, then you need to be miles away from this movie.
Besides the usual voices from the TV show, there are many celebrity cameo voices in the film. George Clooney appears as Dr. Doctor, Minnie Driver plays Brooke Shields, Dave Foley voices the Baldwin Brothers, "Star Trek’s" Brent Spiner plays Conan 0’Brien, and Monty Python alum Eric Idle is Dr. Vosnocker.
Paramount Home Video has recently released "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" on DVD. The film on this release is presented in a letterboxed format and is framed at 1.85:1. The transfer is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The framing of the film appears to be accurately restoring the movie’s aspect ratio and the disc creates a great looking presentation. The animation is made up mostly of primary colors, and they shine on this version, without chroma noise and without over-saturation of the colors. The picture is very clear and there is no graininess or pixelation present.
The audio on the DVD is presented as a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel surround mix. The surround sound on the DVD is very good and especially the musical numbers sound fantastic. The battle scenes make good use of the split surround sounds with good directional integration. The audio itself is well-balanced and the dialogue is always clear. The only extras on the DVD are three theatrical trailers. There is a teaser trailer, which claims that the film cost over $600 million and utilized the finest animators from around the globe. There are two theatrical trailers, one of which claims that Walt Disney is spinning in his grave right now.
The R-rated "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" deals with four young boys who see a film that challenges the MPAA ratings systems. Ironically, "South Park" had to fight to keep from getting an NC-17. The film’s in-your-face attitude will offend and shock many people, but if you like that sort of thing, you will find "South Park" to be a great comedy. And, once again, you can’t beat those songs.