For the first time since I abandoned my column format for shorter individual reviews a few months ago, I find myself regretting the decision: no sooner do I walk out of Tarzan grumbling about Disney's moldy old animated-cartoon formula than a devastating parody of same turns up, complete with expository opening production number -- a grand tour of "this quiet little redneck podunk white-trash mountain town" -- and the traditional maudlin "I Want" song, warbled mournfully by Satan from the bowels of Hell.* There are better than a dozen tunes, all told, and not only are most of them terrifically funny, they're also downright catchy; I'm typing this sentence about five hours after exiting the theater, and I'm still breaking into a rousing mental chorus of "Shut your fucking face, uncle fucka" every few minutes, followed by a torrent of shamefaced giggling. The ceaseless profanity might have proved wearisome were it not justified by some fairly incisive satirical jabs at America's hysterical attitude toward popular entertainment and its allegedly corrupting influence; in my favorite bit, Kyle's activist mom rants about the need to protect our children while pointedly ignoring Kyle himself, who's standing at her feet and trying in vain to get her attention. Nor is the film's Gilliamesque cut-out style unpleasant to look at on the big screen, as I'd initially feared; there's a self-deprecatory line of dialogue about shoddy animation early on, but at the risk of committing blasphemy, I found this defiantly two-dimensional universe, with its vibrant primary colors and deliberately stylized movements, far more visually captivating than Disney's much-heralded, kinetically overbearing "Deep Canvas" technique. The first twenty minutes or so made me laugh harder and more frequently than anything since Toy Story (whatever happened to great live-action comedies, anyway?); after a while, though, the shock value begins to wear off, and much of the latter half of the movie is devoted to material that's less daring than just plain stupid -- exhibit A being a tedious depiction of Saddam Hussein as Satan's perpetually randy homosexual lover (though I did kinda like his song, "I Can Change"). The flimsy plot, too, is essentially a stale rehash of Michael Moore's Canadian Bacon; maybe the third time will be the charm for the war-with-Canada comedy. In the end, it all seemed both a bit much and not quite enough; still, the mere fact that I thoroughly enjoyed a movie inspired by a TV series is surprising enough that I feel a sense of renewed hope about the rest of the filmgoing year. Bring it on.
* (The real show-stopper, though, is a spoof of the climactic "One Day More" medley from the stage version of Les Misérables; I'm not sure why Parker and Stone abruptly switched targets in mid-skeet, but the result is so hilarious that I wouldn't dream of complaining.)