‘South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut’: An Omen of Things to Come

Posted in The Screening Room by - September 27, 2015

It’s funny to look back at a movie like South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut with a bit of hindsight. Released only a few short seasons into the now-classic show’s run in 1999, it acts, in many ways, as a sort of time capsule, tracking not only the progression of what is easily one of Comedy Central’s most recognizable series, but also the lives of its creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and the changes of our entire world. Born out of a time before the invasion of Iraq and at the close of the Clinton administration, it’s an amazing revelation as to the zeitgeist South Park was forged from.

On its face, Bigger, Longer, & Uncut is a movie about the core South Park boys, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman, and their misadventures in the midst of a Canadian-American war brought on by the local mothers’ reactions to a highly uncouth animated movie.

Don’t worry; I’ll give you a moment to grab some ice for the bruise from that face-punching-ly obvious metaphor.

That said, the South Park movie uses this blatant framing for a pretty ridiculous ride. Kenny dies (remember when that was still a quaint expectation from every episode?), there’s a twist involving Satan and Saddam Hussein rising up to take over the earth, a few “violence vs profanity” critiques, and a student uprising, all thread between an eighty-minute animated musical. It’s a good time, even if it does get bogged down at times, whether by trying to force through a preachy message or to roll around in its own filth. Most of the jokes still ring true, and the songs are nothing if not catchy.

But all of that isn’t enough to hold up the movie on its own for so long. You can get the same crass humor and terrible impersonations by shotgunning a few episodes off Hulu or Comedy Central. The music may be insanely easy to get drilled into your head, but it doesn’t add up to much for quality or theme. And the movie’s “message” is certainly not in short supply in any medium or genre.

No, what makes South Park worth watching (or re-watching for many) will be the things it says about the series and the time. Bigger, Longer, & Uncut is from that Chef-filled era before the TV show turned to heavy uses of extravagant CGI. The boys’ crass sense of humor was still enough of a selling point that timely critique could take a backseat to the rest of Stone and Parker’s madness.

Speaking of the creators, this 1999 outing stands as one of their first together – shortly after BASEketball (1998), but well before Team America (2004), or their Tony-winning musical The Book of Mormon. In fact, the seeds of The Book of Mormon can be found all throughout the South Park movie, as Parker explores numerous styles and techniques he would fine-tune in the following decade of the show. One can also follow the sharpening wit of the team, as they test the waters with a quick joke here, followed by a handful of moralizing in the following scenes.

So the question remains: is South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut really the classic some hold it up to be? No, I’d venture to say I could place a dozen other comedies or musicals ahead of it just from memory. It’s a quaint send-up of the show, but came too early to really be more than a relic of its early cycles before the network reanimated its corpse for the 19th season. But what does give South Park its lasting power is the way in which it complements the growth of its creators and the lives of those of us who grew up in its presence. If you’ve never given it a chance and have any love for the series or Matt and Trey, it’s certainly not one to be missed. If you’ve got a copy sitting on your shelf collecting dust, consider popping it in, for old time’s sake, and see if there’s something only sixteen-odd years of hindsight could show.

Final Verdict: Watch It

This post was written by
He is a Nebraska native and UNL Honors alum with an ever-relevant degree in English. When he isn’t working his day job or writing for Kulture Shocked, Ben spends his time as an independent game designer, seeking to publish his first board game. You can also find him modeling for art classes around Lincoln or online as Dlark17 on most major gaming platforms.
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