Taken to the extreme

Review: Everything about `South Park' is crude -- from the animation to the jokes -- but don't let that stop you from seeing this very funny movie.

June 30, 1999|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

If anyone has ever wondered what would happen if 8-year-olds with no sense of social convention were given millions of dollars and told to make a movie, along comes "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" to call a definitive halt to the wondering.

Not merely content to produce the most consistently puerile half-hour of weekly television, the creators of "South Park" have sprung forth one of the most consistently rude and childish films to hit theaters in quite some time.

And, in a subversive, "I can't believe I'm laughing at something so patently offensive" manner, "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" is a sharp piece of social satire that is a hoot to boot.

If you've somehow missed the "South Park" phenomenon the last couple of years, here's a quick primer: Four third-grade boys live in a Colorado mountain town filled with dumb, social-climbing parents, schizophrenic teachers, craven politicians and a lecherous singing school cafeteria chef, performed winningly by R&B great Isaac Hayes.

During the television show, the boys curse at will, except you never hear it, because, well, you can't say those dirty words on television. If "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" were only about taking the bleeps away, then there wouldn't be much to recommend.

But director Trey Parker and co-creator Matt Stone, who missed so badly with last year's sports spoof "BASEketball," are on target here, tapping into a vein of cynicism and smart-aleckness through the eyes of the tiny quartet: Stan, the leader; Kyle, the conflicted Jewish kid; Cartman, who hasn't learned that fat, loud and obnoxious is no way to go through life; and Kenny, who has wicked things to say, but is unheard through his ski jacket.

In a nod to their own battle with the Motion Picture Association of America to avoid an NC-17 rating for "South Park," Parker and Stone, who perform the voices of the boys, successfully take aim at a couple of notions. The first concept they skewer is that words -- no matter how graphic and offensive -- are more harmful than actions. Then they take a pretty good ax to the prevailing idea that the media has more to do with how children are raised than parents.

Those lessons come through the town's reaction to a new film starring the boys' favorite characters, Terence and Philip, a Canadian duo with a predilection to flatulence and profanity.

When the boys begin repeating the foul language they've heard on the screen, South Park's adults start mobilizing against all of Canada.

Before long, the town is getting set to go to war, and the resulting flap sets in motion an unholy alliance between Satan and Saddam Hussein that threatens the fate of the world.

Along the way, Parker and Stone, working off a script co-written by Pam Stone, lampoon an impressive list of performers and personalities that includes figure skater Brian Boitano, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, Bryan Adams, Brian Dennehy, Liza Minnelli, Brooke Shields, Barney, Shamu, Canadians, Germans, Jews, God and, of course, Barbra Streisand.

The jokes are the definition of off-color, and more than a few stray into tastelessness, but, unlike recent "South Park" episodes, the film's humor is focused and, ultimately, more satisfying.

Like "The Lion King" or "Beauty and the Beast," "South Park" depends heavily on music to advance the story -- such as it is -- but that's where any comparison to Disney films ends. No film from the Mouse Factory would be as sparsely animated as "South Park," which is drawn just a step ahead of those crude third-grade flip books. But that's part of the gag and it works nicely.

Parents should be cautioned that while younger kids could, perhaps, take in the television program, they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a theater where this film is playing, even with a parent along for guidance. The themes that are overtly discussed or even hinted at are just too adult for anyone on the other side of middle school, even if the filmmakers' mind set is on that level.

`South Park'

Starring the voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, George Clooney and Brent Spiner

Directed by Trey Parker

Released by Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Rated R (strong language and strong sexual images)

Running time 80 minutes

Sun score: ***

Pub Date: 6/30/99

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