South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

WFTB Score: 14/20

The plot: A devastatingly rude film from Canadian troublemakers Terrance and Phillip warps the fragile little minds of South Park’s youth and causes moral outrage from their parents, finally leading to all-out war. Recently-deceased Kenny alerts his friends – Kyle, Stan and Cartman – that the conflict will release Satan and his new partner Saddam Hussein onto the Earth, forcing the kids to take on the might of the US army – and their mums.

There’s not an awful lot going on in the quiet town of South Park, or in the lives of its young inhabitants Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman; so when the new Terrance and Phillip movie Asses of Fire hits the cinema, they’re determined to get in to watch it even though it’s R-rated. Phrases like “donkey-raping sh*t-eater” and jolly songs such as Uncle F**ker instantly take hold in the classrooms, and when the remedial action of counsellor Mr Mackey proves only a temporary fix – and Kenny is immolated whilst emulating the film – the mothers of South Park (most vehemently Kyle’s mum Sheila) blame Canada and force the US into war against their North American neighbours, complete with a showpiece execution of Terrance and Phillip.

Meanwhile, Kenny arrives in Hell and discovers that the Canadians’ impending death is the final prophecy signalling Satan’s return to Earth, this time with pushy boyfriend Saddam Hussein in tow. Kenny warns his friends, who muster a ragtag resistance with the help of – much to Stan’s disgust – Wendy’s would-be boyfriend Gregory and a hard-bitten kid known only as ‘The Mole’. But how can the kids stand a chance when, due to a microchip implanted in his head, Cartman can’t even cuss without giving himself an electric shock?

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut has many things going for it, but perhaps the greatest and certainly most immediate is its impressive and total self-confidence. After a charming opening paean to the town, recalling the opening of Beauty and the Beast, the movie gets into its sublimely sweary stride almost immediately – Terrance and Phillip are singing the altogether brilliant Uncle F**ker within six minutes. Of course, there’s nothing clever about swear words in and of themselves, and their frequency can be depressing if used simply as a shortcut to characterisation or as thoughtless punctuation; however, the breathtaking level of invention demonstrated in Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Pam Brady’s gloriously filthy script suggests that they had a whale of a time writing the film, the cutely crude animation (especially of our heroic kids) throwing the scabrous language into sharp relief.

Moreover, the film actually makes a plot point out of Cartman’s swearing, as well as making a valid and trenchant statement about the MPAA’s attitude towards swearing as contrasted with gory violence – and also the willingness of parents to blame external forces for their own deficiencies. This helps the language to feel much less gratuitous, unlike the swearing for its own sake in movies such as Superbad and Paul: and, unless your sensibilities don’t agree with such things, it’s very funny.

It’s far from all about the swearing, however. In particular, Bigger, Longer & Uncut uses its characters well; it knows that Cartman is the star and gives him plenty to do, including the wonderful (if recycled) Kyle’s Mom is a Bitch song (“I really mean it!”) and the malfunctioning V-chip which references both A Clockwork Orange and, later, Pokemon. The film uses its references intelligently, never labouring the point as it touches on sources such as The Little Mermaid and Les Misérables (and Gregory is surely a nod to Top Secret!?), also satirising the glamorisation of war and the Canada-ribbing jingoism that arises from it, together with a pointed racial joke which strongly echoes Glory: all this in less than 78 minutes (on DVD) and a plea for tolerance too. Even if you don’t feel that’s sincere, it’s obvious that the filmmakers love their creation – there’s something profoundly touching about Kenny’s final little speech. Finally, there’s an impressive (if slightly pointless) clutch of cameos from the likes of George Clooney, Eric Idle and Minnie Driver.

Negatives? There are a few. The Saddam stuff felt satisfyingly wicked at the time but feels icky in the light of history, whilst Stan’s love for Wendy and Chef’s (Isaac Hayes) advice to him about ‘finding the clitoris’ doesn’t fit with the apocalyptic theme of the movie as a whole. More importantly, there are simply too many songs. The majority of the tunes are great, but about the time the completely left-field (not to say irrelevant) What Would Brian Boitano do? kicks in you do start to suspect that some of them are merely padding out the running time to feature length: Satan gets a song, Mr Mackey gets a song, Gregory gets a song, Saddam gets a song and a dance, even the God-hating Mole gets a few lines, and Big Gay Al gets a song which adds nothing except for a bit of fan service. It’s true that roughly 80 minutes of South Park makes sense as a movie, while 60 minutes would probably have stayed on TV; on the other hand, imagine how good that show would have been.

On the whole, however, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut delivers on the promise of its title, serving up a delicious tirade of abuse without resorting to the brash, mean spirit of Team America: World Police (though the Baldwins, and devotees of Gandhi, may disagree) and capturing the spirit of the show at its freshest, unlike The Simpsons Movie. I can just about remember the ‘Spiderpig’ song and one or two other lines from that film, whereas the highlights of South Park are not only plentiful, they’re immediately and permanently memorable.

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