VOD film review: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Mark Harrison | On 13, Sep 2019
Director: Trey Parker
Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes, George Clooney
Watch South Park The Movie online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“Horrific, deplorable violence is OK, as long as people don’t say any naughty words!”
Sometimes, given the news headlines today, you wonder if much has changed since South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut first hit cinemas. If nothing else, it means Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s unchained moral-panic satire has aged spectacularly well.
Warping fragile little minds since 1999, the film starts with Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, and the rest of America’s youth exercising their grossly expanded vocabularies after seeing the new R-rated Terrance and Phillip movie, Asses Of Fire. In the ensuing moral panic, their parents go berserk, leading to America declaring war on Canada, and Satan himself gearing up for the imminent apocalypse.
While this column usually covers family-friendly favourites, South Park is a touchstone for viewers who were teenagers when the TV movie and its feature film spin-off hit UK cinemas. By the guiding principle of the Barbara Streisand effect (apologies for the strong language), there’s no surer way to make every kid want to see something than for schools to send a letter home warning against it.
Fittingly, the movie is about precisely that response. Parker and Stone had tangled with the MPAA over their previous feature, Orgazmo, which was handed the commercial death sentence of an NC-17 rating because the hero had a sex toy on his helmet – the only way to secure an R rating would have been to reshoot the whole movie, so its audience was severely limited.
From the title down, the film is one giant dunk on the MPAA (who rejected the original title, “South Park: All Hell Breaks Loose” but were oblivious to the thinly veiled euphemism that replaced it) and moral panics about what content kids can and can’t handle. At first, even the film’s musical leanings serve to ease younger teen viewers (who snuck into seeing this in droves) into a very un-Disney animated feature before that first F-bomb drops.
More importantly, Parker and Stone’s obsession with musical theatre gives the film an uproariously funny songbook, whose influences range from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Les Misérables. Co-written by Parker and composer Marc Shaiman, the songs are deliriously funny and deceptively brief, because there’s no other way to pack a soundtrack with such breadth into an 81-minute movie.
The music may elevate it above an episode of the show, but that’s not to say it’s not still a quadruple-length episode. The story sprawls to include as many jokes and songs as possible, disguising its own sketchiness and redundancy in the process, but there’s a visible learning curve for Parker and Stone as storytellers from here to Team America: World Police.
While the TV series has somewhat declined (in part because reality has become more ridiculous than its time-honed brand of topical satire), the movie remains as funny as it was 20 years ago. Nowadays, it’s crazy to think that the creators thought the show would be cancelled three seasons in, but perhaps that’s why this supposed final hurrah goes out swinging.
Released far ahead of the adult-oriented animation boom, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut still feels like a trailblazer. With its big laughs and catchy songs, it has long outlasted the controversy it so hilariously predicted for itself. The animation may not be pristine, but the script and songbook have shown remarkable staying power over the years.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.