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Wednesday
Sep132017

Soundtracking: "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut"

Chris Feil's soundtrack series doesn't "Blame Canada" this week while he is at TIFF...

When Book of Mormon opened on Broadway, it was met with a fairly shocked response that Trey Parker and Matt Stone were able to create such an old-fashioned musical within their own foul-mouthed lexicon. It was as if people had quickly forgotten that they had already created a catchy and sweet musical on screen with South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. And this was a few years before musicals would be cool at the movies again and a bit of a “gotcha” joke on their fanbase expecting simple crudeness, so maybe it’s easy to forget just how gutsy the South Park movie was.

Bigger, Longer, and Uncut follows the traditional musical blueprint in with “I want” standards and dance breaks galore. Marc Shaiman collaborated with Parker and Stone here to help build a series of showstoppers to rival its contemporaries on the stage. Like Moulin Rouge! shortly after this, there was the question if South Park would be adapted for the stage. With songs so comfortably in the Rogers and Hammerstein mold, it’s easy to imagine a smooth transition. Take the opening “Mountain Town” number for example: central characters and environment establish, conflict teased, and the audience already has one melody stuck in their head.

Parker and Stone’s utter love for musicals is evident in every song. If you think they would be poking fun at the genre, you are dead wrong - it’s actually the bro quadrant of the audience that gets the finger pointed at them in this regard. In its catchy glee, the songs all but dare them to delight in something cultural taste has told them to abhor. It’s even more audacious than the flipside challenge they also ace: getting more prim and proper musical aficionados to toe-tap to a song such as “Uncle Fucker.”

Though perhaps that particular audience wasn’t ready to give something like South Park a complete pass given that the film came with the harsh reputation of the television show, something Book of Mormon didn’t really have to work against. That kind of half-step towards acceptance by the more traditional set can be seen in its Best Original Song nomination for “Blame Canada.” Oscar could hardly ignore an original musical in the category, but nevertheless one of the score’s most television (and conservative) friendly tunes. Even its dirtiest joke is tame by comparison to everything around it. But “Blame Canada” remains one of the film’s less impressive songs in both musicality and jokes.

For a number more emblematic of Bigger, Longer, and Uncut’s crass genius and classic showstopping, its underrated winner is Mr. Mackey’s “It’s Easy, M'Kay.” It’s one of the film’s more steadily pottymouthed songs, but in tone and crowd-pleasing chutzpah it is almost aggressively wholesome. A stage adaptation would have surely turned this into the tap number it desperately longs to be in its clever rhythm and grinning enthusiasm.

For all of its plentiful satire and offensiveness, the South Park film announced Parker and Stone’s tender and charming musical instincts. Had it not been early enough into the series’s landmark run before it became somewhat closer to the establishment, maybe its musical prowess could have been more appreciated by its own merit. Instead, it’s still mostly a footnote in the series’s now 20 year history. M'kay?

Previous Soundtracking Favorites:
Almost Famous
Young Adult
A Mighty Wind

Big Little Lies
Sister Act
...all installments can be found here!

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Reader Comments (13)

I'm firmly in the camp for What Would Brian Boitano Do?, which is so absolutely random and hilarious.

I wonder what would happen to the movie if released in today's age of permanent umbrage, especially when Cartman, my fave of the four, sings his reprise of Kyle's Mom's a Bitch. Nowadays that would probably trigger a million essays and twitter rants about cultural appropriation and minority insensitivity, especially the bit in which he shows up in blackface for a half of a second.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Book of Mormon didn't surprise any fan of Parker and Stone. Musical has always been their preferred genre. South Park is full of musical number, the movie was a musical, Team America was kind of musical, even their first film was Cannibal the musical, a musical about the Donner party.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike Troutman

Book of Mormon is basically a really long mediocre episode of South Park.

SP:BLU is an expanded really brilliant episode of South Park. So creative, so efficient in its comedy and storytelling. And a way better score than BOM. One of the great movie musicals, animated or not.

Thanks for this post!

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

I think my favorite song is Satan's song. It's just such a perfect version of Ariel's song from "A Little Mermaid" but really, the whole score is great.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

A Uk review of Close's The Wife.
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/sep/12/the-wife-review-glenn-close-brilliant-toronto-film-festival-tiff-2017

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I LOVE this movie so much - easily one of the best movie musicals ever made. I always love that Sondheim once called it out as being great - if that didn't get musical snobs to sit up and take notice, nothing will.

There really isn't a bad song in the whole thing, but my favorite song is and always will be Kyle's Mom's A Bitch. When it gets to the pseudo-jibberish foreign language verse I'm always doubled over with laughter.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

I'm just stunned that we haven't gotten a theatrical bow since. I guess the games are sort of filling that role (in spite of having fallen out of watching the show itself, I'm SO looking forward to The Fractured But Whole), but still.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I too love this movie: a great musical, a great movie. The musical numbers are highlights, but the whole thing is hilarious, sharp and fun. I love all the songs, but perhaps my favourites are "It's Easy, M-kay" and "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" And the ending - wow!

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

South Park: BLU is one of the few films I saw with an American audience (the others were Apollo 13, Phantom Menace and Moulin Rouge). I was on an exchange programme with my musical theatre group to Jefferson City, Missouri, and for some reason all of us Irish teenagers got into this R rated film. We all adored it for both its filthiness and its amazing songs.

The film does have the greatest Les Mis piss take ever, and I'll always have a special place in my heart for I'm Super (Thanks for asking) which luxuriates in its gay stereotyping without the nasty aftertaste that some of Book of Mormon has

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterIanO

Fucking love this movie. It's so hilarious. Fuck Phil Collins and his stupid-ass song for winning the Oscar.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

did you leave midway through the movie?? so much goodness in the second half - satan's up there, the brilliant 'les miz'' pastiche la resistance [that entire gregory thread is gold], saddam's i can change and big gay al's big gay i'm super showstopper - you didn't bother mentioning

ps: @markgordonuk - topic!

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Still one of my all time fave musicals... after this one, only Hedwig, Moulin Rouge!, Chicago and Hairspray have seduced me so much.

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

@thevoid99 I remember when Trey Parker lost the oscar for Best Song to Phil Collins he explained to an interviewer the ignominy of it all: "My grandkids are going be like, 'Fuck you, you lost to Phil Collins."

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob

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