Rated R - Running Time: 1:20 - Released 6/30/99

Okay, let me start this off by saying you have to be a fan of South Park. This cartoon show about four elementary school friends in a rural rocky mountain town has generated a cult following that has grown exponentially since it first aired on the Comedy Central network in 1997. But it has also generated very angry reactions from the more conservative members of society for its foul language, obscene subject matter, and graphic violence. South Park is funny. But South Park is also very, very gross.

Despite what seems like nothing but mindless profanity, this film (written and produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone; directed by Parker) actually has an important message. The story starts when our four friends, Stan (voice of Parker), Kyle (Stone), Cartman (Parker), and Kenny (Stone), attend the premiere of the film version of their favorite cartoon show, Terrance And Phillip. The film is called . . . no, I'd better not publish the title. But it contains the usual Terrance And Phllip fare, which is mainly scatalogical humor and profanity, and it introduces them to a world of obscene language none of them ever had known before. When they return to school and start using their newly discovered vocabulary, they get in trouble with their teacher, their principal, and especially their mothers.

Kyle's mother seeks to find the perpetrators of the foul film, and discovers it was produced by Canadians. She launches an anti-Canada campaign that catches on like wildfire, with the entire country soon jumping on the bandwagon, blaming Canadians for all the ills suffered by the United States. Before long the two nations are at war, and Terrance and Phillip are scheduled to be executed. Meanwhile, Kenny gets killed (as usual), and goes to hell, where he discovers that Satan is actually an effeminate homosexual involved in an unfulfilling affair with Saddam Hussein. While he eavesdrops on their excruciating conversations and learns of their relationship problems (and their desire to take over the world), the other guys attempt to rescue their beloved Terrance and Phillip from the electric chair.

The film is full of show-stopping musical numbers that would rival any Disney film (except most of them are full of obscenities), and the scenes of hell feature digitally animated backgrounds which are in sharp contrast to the simplistic, paper cut-out animation of the rest of the film. Some characters, notably Hussein, are done in Terry Gilliam-style, with actual photos manipulated to look as if they are moving, and the "Canadians" are rendered in a completely different fashion from the "Americans," emphasizing the notion that they are of a different race.

Okay, now for the message: South Park has come under fire for years for its shockingly vulgar style, and there are many people who are prone to attack the media, or a network, or the producers of a program, for contributing to their child's delinquency, rather than simply educating the child about the difference between right and wrong. Not to mention that violence is not seen as a threat so much as sex or foul language. The film's main theme is spoken eloquently by one character at an anti-Canada rally: "It's okay for our programs to show graphic violence, as long as they don't say any naughty words!"

I found this film hysterically funny and quite thought-provoking. But they do say lots and lots of naughty words. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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