movie film review | chris tookey

South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut

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  South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
6.00 /10
Cartman, etc.: Trey Parker, Kyle
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Directed by: Trey Parker
Written by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady

Released: 1999
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 80

Children misbehave. Their parents blame Canada.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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There haven't been many times when I've felt so sickened by a movie. Still, maybe I'm in a minority. The mostly young, invited audience of non-critics around me laughed at every piece of foul language - just as well, since if the expletives were deleted from this 88-minute movie it would run about 88 seconds. They chuckled at every act of senseless violence, roared whenever someone vomited or defecated over another character.

By the end, I was almost as depressed about the audience as I was about the film.

It arrived in Britain having achieved considerable success at the American box office, and - more surprisingly - garlanded with praise from critics. According to the New York Times, the movie is "a scathing social parable." Newsweek hailed it as "irreverent, silly and smart."

Well, it's smart at the start. South Park has a witty opening number celebrating the Colorado town where the child heroes live - a funny, if not particularly original, spoof of small-town American prejudices and casual cruelties, which parodies the opening number in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Just as amusing is the first scene, where tiny children bluff their way into a cinema and sit through a Beavis-and-Butthead-style "comedy" that relies for laughs not on wit or talent but on crude behaviour and foul language.

For about ten minutes, South Park seems to have some kind of point. On emerging from the cinema, the pre-pubescent children start copying the film's toilet humour, bad language and cruel behaviour. Their parents are shocked and angry.

But then, instead of responding in a credible or realistic fashion, the parents demand that the Canadian film-makers be sent to the electric chair, and successfully persuade President Clinton to bomb Canada.

If this is satire, it is clumsily misplaced. In its opening sequences, South Park raises genuine issues surrounding freedom of speech, such as whether foul-mouthed, violent and sexually explicit films can help to corrupt the young. And, interestingly, it assumes that they can.

But then it turns its back on its own conclusions. Instead, it invents a grotesquely exaggerated pro-censorship lobby and then asks which is the greater evil: foul language used by children (a genuine source of concern in modern society), or self-appointed moral guardians using violence against controversial film-makers and their homelands (a bogus problem constructed by this movie).

From then on, the film abandons satire altogether. It contents itself with yelling rude words and grossing out its audience.

As the movie wears on, the horrible truth dawns that writer-director Trey Parker doesn't see anything wrong with acts of prejudice and cruelty, as long as they are practised by children. He doesn't care if eight year-olds use foul language. He thinks it's funny if children barely out of kindergarten know intimate details of sexual perversion.

Parker and his colleagues do more than condone the corruption of juveniles and the destruction of children's innocence. They celebrate it. While they're at it, they present concerned authority figures as crazed thugs. Then, for good measure, they vilify Jesus, God and religion.

One Christian critic on the Internet incurred predictably patronising ridicule from The Guardian for condemning South Park as having arrived "straight from the smoking pits of Hell". For my own part, I doubt if Mr Parker does hail straight from the smoking pits of Hell. But he's quite obviously a foolish opportunist from Tinseltown, which amounts to much the same thing.

I wouldn't wish to be too po-faced about South Park. Some of its jokes made me laugh. Bad-taste comedy can be a welcome antidote to political correctness , a healthy reaction to an authoritarian society.

For adults tending to be over-protective of their children, there may even be something cathartic about seeing babies thrown through windows or small children casually incinerated, as they are here.

But I am just old enough to recall the outrage which greeted the stoning of a baby onstage in Edward Bond's Saved. Now, much more brutal scenes are being transmitted in a cartoon form that will ensure many children see them. Hardly anyone seems perturbed. Well, perhaps we should be.

Taboos about violence towards children have existed in the arts for centuries, and for good reasons. We dismantle them at our peril.

Probably the least funny running gag in South Park shows Satan (who's portrayed as a nice, sensitive guy, just to upset the religious) having a sado-masochistic, homosexual relationship with Saddam Hussein. It is typical of the movie's stupidity and fundamental lack of interest in being satirical that the only thing it can find offensive in the Iraqi dictator is his being gay, one of the few "crimes" of which he is not guilty. If this truly passes as satire nowadays, Swift must be turning in his grave.

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