South Park: The Passion of the Jew review by Mike Long

Trey Parker and Matt Stone AKA The South Park Guys have never been accused of being subtle. That goes for the shocking material in their shows and movies (have you seen the trailer for Team America?) and the way that they present their public personas. So, I have no doubt that Trey and Matt approved of Paramount releasing a DVD of their "The Passion of the Jew" episode on the same day that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ hits home video. Flying in the face of popular culture is exactly what has made South Park so popular, and this release is no exception.

"The Passion of the Jew" DVD contains three episodes of South Park, beginning with the eponymous show, which originally aired on 3/31/04. Cartman (voiced by Trey Parker) has been daunting Kyle (voiced by Matt Stone) about seeing The Passion of the Christ and stating that the film had taught him that "Jews are evil". Frustrated by these jabs, Kyle finally gives in and goes to see the film, only to be traumatized by it. This make Kyle begin to question his own faith. Meanwhile, Cartman has organized the "Mel Gibson Fan Club" and is becoming more and more militant. Interested to see what all of the hype is about, Stan (voiced by Trey Parker) and Kenny (voiced by Matt Stone) go to the The Passion and don't like it. When they demand their money back, they are told that there are no refunds for the film and that if they'd like their money, they'll have to go ask Mel Gibson for it...which is exactly what they do. These three plotlines converge into a very disturbing ending.

When this episode first aired, I hadn't seen The Passion of the Christ, so I couldn't fully appreciate all of the jokes. Now that I have, I can see The South Park Guys' brand of subversive humor at work. Basically, the show depicts what may well be the three top reactions to the movie: guilt, love, or dislike -- and of course, these three responses are exaggerated to a great extreme. Cartman's reaction is the silliest as South Park take the fact that many were afraid that The Passion of the Christ were stir anti-Semitism and the fact that many were moved to renew their faith by the movie and mix it into a perversion of reality. However, it was Stan and Kenny's reaction that I really loved. For many, The Passion of the Christ is above critique, and I like that fact that Kenny and Stan simply didn't like the movie and were rebuffed for that. As a whole, the episode relies too much on South Park's trademark shock tactics, and the whole subplot involving Mel Gibson isn't very funny. (Except for when Stan refers to Gibson as "daffy", as we don't hear that word enough.) South Park fans and those who grew tired of the hype surrounding The Passion will find something to like here, but this isn't the show's finest hour. (I'm surprised that the DVD doesn't include the episode which aired just prior to "The Passion of the Jew", which was entitled "Up the Down Steroid". It was in that show that Cartman began to talk about The Passion and the Olympics (albeit Special Olympics) setting would have been perfect for this time of year.)

The DVD contains two bonus episodes, both of which deal with religious themes. In "Christian Rock Hard", the boys have formed a rock band called Moop, but can't agree on a sound. Frustrated, Cartman quits the band and bets Kyle that he can obtain a platinum record by creating a Christian rock band. Kyle, knowing that Cartman is a moron, accepts the challenge. Cartman quickly recruits Butters and Token (both voiced by Matt Stone) to be in his Christian rock band, which he calls "Faith + 1". Meanwhile, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny decide to download some music from the internet in order to find a sound for their band, and are immediately arrested by the FBI. This forces them to re-think their views on downloading. This episode has some funny moments, most notably the "A Christmas Carol"-esque scene where the boys are forced to see how downloading "hurts" big stars. And the last scene is nicely played. The other bonus show is "Red Hot Catholic Love", which is South Park's response to the scandal over priests molesting children. In this show, Priest Maxi (voiced by Matt Stone) convenes a meeting of his fellow priests and is horrified to learn that they are all molesters. Wanting to put a stop to this problem, Priest Maxi heads for the Vatican. At the same time, Cartman is convinced that if you put food up your butt, then you'll poop out of your mouth...and that's all that I'm saying about that. South Park can either be funny or simply annoying as it tries too hard to shock. This show falls into that second category, as the Cartman plot is just stupid and the visit to the Vatican gets way out of control, save for nod to the early days of video gaming.

South Park: The Passion of the Jew comes to DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. All three episodes are presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The images are sharp and clear, showing no grain or distortion of the image. The colors look very good, although the reds do show oversaturation at times. The digital transfer has revealed some subtle flaws in the animation, and the image does stutter in some scenes. The DVD's Dolby Digital stereo audio track provides clear dialogue and sound effects and the music sounds fine. There are no extra features on this DVD.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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