1999 was a big year for movies. It was the year that The Matrix‘s slow-motion bullet influenced action movies for years to come. It was the year American Beauty won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Oscar fans have been arguing about it ever since. It was the year Pokémon jumped from Gameboys and TV to the big screen. And worst of all, it was the year that disappointed a generation of Star Wars fans with the release of The Phantom Menace.
To celebrate that landmark year in film’s 20th Anniversary, The Pop Break continues its year-long retrospective of 1999’s most influential (at least to us) films with staff writer, Logan J. Fowler, reflecting on the movie that made us ask, “what would Brian Boitano do?”: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
I put the show South Park in rear view mirror status a long time ago. However, when the Comedy Central animated program debuted in 1997, I remember recording it via VHS tapes (far cry from DVR, kids) and being overall enamored with it. Enamored is a weird word for such a show; it features four kids who talk about things that would make a lot of adults blush. I mean, the first episode is called “Cartman gets an Anal Probe.” I rest my case.
Anyway, two years later, South Park took to the movies, with Bigger, Longer & Uncut. I remember being pretty excited about the movie, but knew it wasn’t going to be something I could watch in cinemas because, well, I was just shy of 17. However, my uncle who lived with my family and I at the time (still does) picked up on the fact that I loved the show so much, and he said he would take me.
Thankfully, that weird “parents watching inappropriate film stuff with their kid” atmosphere didn’t ever really feel like a thing with my uncle, because man, if you have seen South Park the movie, you know that it doesn’t mess around. There’s a ton of language, nudity, gory violence (in animated form, anyway), and Saddam Hussein and Satan being a couple. But my older relative never seemed phased by it.
Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are nothing short of comedic geniuses. While they use the jokes they write to have some biting sense of vulgarity (see the Book of Mormon musical for further proof), they wrap it into this nice storyline of something either current event or political in nature. They don’t look for laughs based on shock value purely; they earn them because in the climate, it makes sense.
I know Parker and Stone’s projects are not everyone’s cup of tea, but South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is the duo at their most unhinged and the movie is better because of it. Not only is it a statement on finger pointing at other countries for their own mistakes (because kids go into an R-rated movie, shudder!), but it also is up there with the best animated movie musicals of all time. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Walt Disney! I know I sound crazy, but try not to become invested in the catchy opening, “Mountain Town,” Satan’s “Up There,” or the irreverent, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” The soundtrack is pure gold!
The movie never loses sight of what it’s after—even during silly musical numbers. I may be looking at the film through a different lens than money, but even though I stopped watching the show before I got to college, I still have memories of watching the film after I left graduate school. Each time (EACH TIME) I visited one of my college friends in Brooklyn, we would throw this movie on and sing our lungs out to the songs. The movie made new memories for me and I still think it’s a great work of cinema, truly experimental, and I wouldn’t ever deny that we wouldn’t have gotten Book of Mormon if this didn’t exist. It put the two guys on a bigger map, and the comedic landscape is better for it.
If I have one negative thing to say about the movie, I think releasing two years after the show premiered may have been a bit too early. Even though the show has been on for 20 years, it may have been better to wait until later in the run, something for fans to feel rewarded for. However, I guess Trey and Matt were always ahead of the game with their stories and having their fingers on the pulse of the world for the show, and this movie was necessary for that time. That being said, I guess releasing it when they did is just something Brian Boitano would do.