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Cannibal! The Musical (1993)
Directed by: Trey Parker
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Toddy Walters
Rated: R for Comic Gore/Violence, and Some Language
Running Time: 1 h 35 m
TMM Score: 3 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Humor, Low Budget Gem, Writing, Some Songs, Locations
WEAKNESSES: It's Pretty Stupid, Pacing
A team of miners travels across the mountains only to be trapped in the winter. As the snows pile up the travelers are forced to turn to cannibalism, while singing!
Trey Parker (Team America: World Police) and Matt Stone (Baseketball) are the creative minds behind South Park, the animated television show about foul mouthed fourth graders living in Colorado, now entering it’s twenty second season, and the Tony Award winning Broadway musical ‘The Book of Mormon.’ I must admit I do enjoy some South Park episodes; some of them are quite well written. The comedy duo is known for their often-offensive humor but also their ability to really keep their fingers on the pulse of American culture. Some of their stuff is quite crude, but some of it is quite poignant. This film comes four years before South Park premiered, and strangely enough, it’s based on the true story of Alfred Packer, a prospector who ate his traveling companions in order to survive the harsh winter of 1874. While the true story is quite grim, this film is riddled with absolutely ridiculous gags and jokes that feel much like some of the earlier South Park episodes. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a great film, but it’s certainly entertaining, particularly if you’re a fan of Parker and Stone.
“My heart is as full as a baked potato!”
From the opening song, I could gauge exactly how much I would enjoy this movie. The song shows Alfred riding into town, singing about how the sky is blue, the trees are green, and the sun was as warm as a baked potato. I couldn’t help but laugh at the stupidity that was happening, and I found myself laughing even more when he proclaimed he was having a ‘schpadoinkle’ day. By the end of the first song, I predicted that I would find some jokes funny, but a decent amount of them wouldn’t land completely, and that’s pretty much how this film went for me. If you’ve watched South Park or Team America World Police, then you’ll know what to expect as far as humor goes. A lot of the word play stuff, the over-sincere acting, and even the songs really work well, but there are a lot of juvenile moments as well. I feel like Parker (who wrote, directed, and starred as Packer) really showcases his ability to elevate the ridiculous in this movie without taking it so far that it no longer is funny. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that Parker wrote the music and songs to accompany this film too- as this was his debut film, that’s pretty ambitious and impressive. His directing is pretty good in this film too; Parker seemed to know exactly what he wanted as far as tone. I love the way he overacts intentionally, as do many of the other actors. It makes the film feel ridiculously genuine, almost sappily emotional at times, and that sappiness makes the experience even funnier.
The thing that stood out the most about this film was easily the writing and songs. As I said above, this movie is rather stupid, but that stupidity is quite hilarious when added to music and cleverly written. Many of the songs are memorable, and though they aren’t produced with state of the art technology, I’m willing to forgive the quality of audio because of the hilarity of the lyrics. There are also some really clever gags in this film; like having a ‘tribe’ of Japanese people living in teepees in the middle of the west, and everyone mistaking them for Native Americans. This movie was rather low budget (IMDb estimates $125,000), so it’s easy to understand why many of the sets look like high school theater sets; the outfits look like tawdry costumes; and the prosthetics look cheap and ridiculous. This is a really low budget movie; for what they had, this film turned out pretty good. The team clearly made due with what they had, and they pulled off something that turned out to be a low budget gem.
I suppose it should also be noted that this film actually looks pretty good for as low budget as it was. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the locations where they filmed. Most of this was filmed in Colorado, but Parker’s cinematographer knew how to frame a shot to really bring out the beauty of the landscape. Some of the scenes spent traveling to Colorado Territory are gorgeously shot, but then as the film progresses, a lot of the action takes place in what just looks like the woods of someone’s backyard. By and large, however, this film does look better than most low budget movies I’ve seen.
This isn’t an amazing film, but it’s pretty funny. It has some genuinely hilarious moments, and other moments that really tend to drag. At only an hour and a half, this film is worth the viewing time if you’re into Parker and Stone’s other work, you like musicals, or you don’t mind a bit of stupid humor. Again, it’s not the greatest movie, but it’s funny enough to watch once.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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