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DVD Review: South Park – The Imagionationland Trilogy

South Park is sometimes called the crude uncle at the family reunion. At some point, the show will offend everyone. Many people overlook this character-focused animated series with its unforgiving cultural satire and accurate movie parodies. On March 11, Comedy Central releases a three-part story arc from season 11 on DVD, dubbed The Imaginationland Trilogy

After watching it the second time, I found myself laughing less at creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s parody overkill. But Imaginationland’s still an example of why South Park is one of the better shows on TV.

If you’ve never seen South Park before, you must understand the main characters’ personalities, which drive each episode. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Butters, and Kenny are a group of fourth graders from the town of South Park, Colorado. Stan and Kyle are the most normal and the show’s conscience. A Jew, Kyle often fights off jokes from bigoted Cartman, the group’s egomaniac and resident schemer. Butters is the awkward and gullible one. Kenny provides comic relief when he dies gruesomely, and returns to life the next episode.

In Imagionationland, Cartman wins a bet with friend and rival Kyle by proving leprechauns are real. As the loser, Kyle has to perform an absurd and humiliating act on him. But Kyle refuses, infuriating Cartman. Later, Kyle, Stan, Butters, and schoolmate Jimmy are whisked away to Imagionationland where all fictional characters live. But Islamic terrorists suddenly attack Imagionationland and destroy the wall separating good and evil. The boys escape, except for Butters. With the American imagination running wild, the U.S. government takes Kyle and Stan to Washington, D.C. to help with the crisis. Undaunted, Cartman hitchhikes cross-country to confront Kyle. And lowly Butters may be Imagionationland’s only hope at beating every villain in recorded history.

The Imagionationland Trilogy spoofs the most movies I’ve seen in a South Park storyline. It’s amazing that the plot can connect these films together. On my first viewing, I caught parts of the Wizard of Oz, Chronicles of Narnia, and The Matrix. Hollywood gets parodied, too. Out of ideas, the military asks gimmicky directors M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay what to do next, but neither of them know how to write a straight story. That sounds silly, but something similar actually happened, according to Variety.

What makes me laugh hardest about the Imagionationland storyline is how it exposes cute G-rated characters to R-rated violence. At one point Stan witnesses Mickey Mouse, Dorothy, and Ronald McDonald getting body parts shot off. This is South Park pushing its random sense of humor to the extreme. But that’s what makes the show really funny. Who cannot laugh when Santa Claus chops Captain Hook with a battle ax?

I've got a problem with Comedy Central calling the DVD an “uncensored director’s cut.” None of the swearing is bleeped out. But the Imaginationland episodes remain the same. The studio added in a couple of older bonus episodes probably to up the DVD’s running time. But why not slip unused ideas back in? That would’ve been a more imaginative way to add in extra time. As it stands, the disc doesn’t deserve the title.

The Imaginationland Trilogy isn’t bad. Singling it out for a DVD release, however, over-exaggerates its quality. The parodies weren’t the most humorous and the story wasn’t controversial enough. Personally, I think other 11th season episodes were better.

The Imagionationland Trilogy comes in a 1:33:1 fullscreen format and features Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio. You can breeze through the special features. Storyboards for the opening “leprechaun spotting” scene and “welcome to Imaginationland” scene are included. It just would’ve been nice to access the storyboards for the entire trilogy. Also, you can catch up on the older South Park episodes “Woodland Critter Christmas” and “Manbearpig.” The title characters of both appear in Imaginationland. Otherwise, you can skip it if you’ve already seen them or don’t care because you have the season DVDs.

Finally, we get a South Park commentary track that is longer than five minutes. This one is worth listening to. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone go into detail about how the ideas for the story came together and how they watch TV dramas like 24 to learn how to become better writers. They sound very observant and not like the total college fratboys they sometimes come off as being. If you’re like me, you’ll be fascinated at hearing more of their opinions on movies and directors.

About Kevin Gustafson