By George Rose
April 28, 2009
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Thank You For Smoking (2005)
South Park is the greatest show on television, hands down. Better than Heroes, 30 Rock, or Rock of Love. Only South Park has the ability to entertain me every week with some new pop-culture reference tweaked to the philosophical extreme. The creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have only gained momentum over the show's 13 seasons and show no signs of slowing down. When the show was introduced back in 1997, nobody expected the potty-humor to last over a decade, win Emmys or create a musical movie.
Bigger, Longer & Uncut is a masterpiece with trace amounts of feces along the edges. The songs are original, clever and hilarious (Blame Canada was nominated for a Best Song Academy Award) and the plot, well, it's apocalyptic. After two of Canada's biggest celebrities, Terrance and Philip, start making potty-mouths out of the American children – including Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman –mothers everywhere start a war against the pair. This only makes sense since most parents refuse to ever take responsibility for what their kids are watching. God forbid they simply spend more time with the child! In any case, when the Canadian superstars' blood is spilled on American soil, it summons Satan and his mistress (Saddam Hussein, of course), and the fate of the world is once again placed into the hands of our four young heroes.
The movie doesn't take as many direct jabs at pop-culture as the show itself does, but the jokes are non-stop and only get better with every new song introduced. You won't find any silly, slapstick humor here, but if you're looking for smart and witty animation, you needn't look any further than South Park. For some, it can be a lot to handle (the cartoon is rated-R). To give you better insight into the minds of Parker and Stone, it might help to inform you that these two appeared at the Academy Awards in women's clothing, tripping on mushrooms. They look conformity and expected standards in the eye and laugh hysterically, both on and off screen. Their current season is something I hope you are all watching weekly, but if you're looking for some of their old-school jokes without the many hours needed to catch up on earlier seasons, Bigger, Longer & Uncut is the dose of doodie you need to unblock.
There are many films that have quotable lines. Then there are films that are so jam packed full of quotable lines that they mostly get forgotten and are replaced by the more relevant, underlying theme of the movie. Thank You For Smoking is one of those films and is about much more than smoking. It's about a way of life; the Nick Naylor way of life.
Nick is a smart ass spokesperson and lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, played effortlessly by Aaron Eckhart. It is his job to make sure the anti-smoking loudmouths of the nation don't hinder the business or create new laws that would prevent further production. This becomes difficult to do while screwing a news reporter (Katie Holmes) who has it out to take him down or while bringing his questioning son on a business trip. What allows Nick to remain confident and successful is his mantra in life, the lesson viewers will be hard pressed to forget after the credits roll – in order to uphold freedom, we need choice.
He argues this point by elaborating that it isn't so much about whether smoking is bad for you (most smokers will agree it isn't good for their body), but about giving people the right to decide for themselves. His method of getting to this point is to beat his opponents in each argument by making them appear wrong. He preaches "if you're wrong, then I'm right," and to make them wrong, he pulls a flip-switch mid argument. While the naysayers say smoking is harmful and should be banned, Nick teaches the world that harmful things are impossible to avoid and it's up to the person facing the obstacle to decide for themselves. He doesn't claim cigarettes to be healthy, since picking a side is grounds for failure. Only by allowing people to choose and granting them that full freedom can the American way be fulfilled.
Maybe my opinion of the film is biased, since I myself am a smoker (I swear I'm really quitting this time!), but in honor of Nick I have one request: watch the movie and judge it for yourself. The lesson might not apply to you with regards to smoking but it will apply to some part of your life and I bet you'll win your next argument.