I am not a South Park fan, though I enjoyed the movie well enough. Still, I was eager to see TAWP, based on both my love adventure flicks (especially the old Thunderbirds series) and based on the bits I saw at the San Diego Comic-Con.
The movie appropriate has the dual tag lines, “Putting the ‘F’ Back in Freedom” and “Freedom Hangs by a Thread!” If you’re looking for ostensibly adult dialog coming from technically proficient but (intetionally) poorly handled marionettes, this is your movie. There are, in fact, a lot of funny bits in TAWP. The better ones send up one or another trope of action flicks and the Anderson Supermarionation shows, or lampoon some of the blind attitudes that characterize the “dicks,” “pussies,” and “assholes” of the world regarding the War on Terror (as explicated in a marvelously amusing speech near the end.)
A goodly percentage of the humor, though, and not surprising in a Trey Parker production, relies on simple shock value, “I can’t believe they’d say/do that” sorts of moments. It’s a form of humor with limited utility, and by the time this film winds down, I found my own outrage circuits more than numbed — which meant some of those bits had gone from shockily humorous to simply nasty or gross or pointless. You can only go over the top so long before it gets it gets passé. And judging from the scattering of laughter and groans in the movie audience, I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
Which isn’t to say that I particularly regret having invested the time to watch this Parker/Matt Stone flick. There is a lot of seriously funny stuff here, some of it remarkably subtle (and much of it set to music — the “Montage” tune alone is worth the price of the sound track). And they are able to get away with a lot because of their willingness to lampoon and offend anyone (I can easily think of a dozen interest groups, including the Screen Actors Guild, which will not be offering the film makers any awards this year, and I strongly advise them to not travel to or near North Korea any time soon). But it all gets to be a bit much (I mean, you can poke fun at Tim Robbins and Alex Baldwin only so long, even if you do a great job of it). Indeed, I suspect the film would have been better about half an hour shorter, edited a bit more rigorously for the bits (even the outrageous and grotesque ones) that were really funny, and not just exercises in sniggering self-indulgence.
This is probably one for the rental bin (and with some friends with you and some beers in you), though I suspect it will get plenty of quotation action in the coming years.
(Originally posted to my blog)