South Park was a natural escalation in the increasing trend of animation aimed towards adults. What the Simpsons had started in 1989 had been slowly building throughout the 90’s series such as Beavis and Butthead took the prerogative, but it wasn’t until South Park that the escalation reached its peak.
Challenging taboo will always have a shelf life, as it is only ever a taboo for so long, then it becomes just another thing, and South Park knew this, and it challenged every social norm it possibly could, riling people up every week with its irreverent humour, and it still does to this day twenty-two seasons in.
By comparison; Bigger, Longer and Uncut was early into South Park’s life, coming out during the third season of the show, it had not yet hit its stride as the right-wing reactionary news bait it would become in years to come, and the film took aim at those very same reactionaries in the only way they knew how by making them look as stupid as possible.
After the release of a new Terrance and Phillip movie corrupts the minds of the children of South Park, their mothers force the U.S. into a war with Canada, and arrest Terrance and Phillip as war criminals, do so will have dire consequences, however, as if they are killed, Satan and Saddam Hussein will rise from hell and conquer Earth.
I’m not the biggest South Park fan in the world, I think some episodes are fantastic satires, and there is no better series for pushing boundaries, but I find some of its humour juvenile (deliberately so, I’m aware) and sometimes a tad preachy, but the movie version is a perfectly balanced gem of a film.
Yes there are still fart jokes, yes Kenny dies a completely predictable death (again) but for its incredible resolve in making a point in as hilarious a way as possible, it casts its net wide and catches itself a whopper.
What sets it apart from the series is in the catchy and witty soundtrack, one of the most surprising musical films of all time, whoever expected South Park to become a musical? Well, Matt and Trey must have gotten a taste for the musical after this, judging by their future work on Book of Mormon, and the early roots of that are evident here, with jaunty tunes such as ‘Uncle Fucka’ and ‘Blame Canada’ (which was nominated for an Oscar) it’s the perfect bow on top of the well-wrapped parcel that is this film.
The fact that this film is pretty much just a massive middle finger to all the series’ critics over the years does not go unnoticed, as they skewer the hypocrisy of right-wing moral panic (my particular favourite line is ‘violence is okay, as long as no-one uses any bad words’) that had savaged their show since the start, and they go out of their way to show them as being massive fools, this whole film is a protest in itself of censorship, perfectly paralleling the plot of the movie shows it to be smarter than first thought.
So with whip-sharp wit, hilarious and catchy soundtrack, the film combines this with stellar voice performances from the usual cast (most characters are voiced by the series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker) with just two people making different kid voices, they create several distinctive personalities that carry over from the show wonderfully.
In conclusion then, while South Park is not for everyone, it’ foul-mouthed and occasionally mean-spirited, its film is a shining example of both satire, and adult animation, challenging boundaries with humour and wit, it still holds up as a high watermark for the series.