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The New Gross-Out Movie Comedies

12:00 AM, Jul 26, 1999 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
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The movie that inaugurated the new spate of gross-out comedies was last year's There's Something About Mary, which was remarkably disgusting but so clever and inventive that it seemed almost Rabelaisian. But its seemingly endless series of I-can't-believe-I'm-watching-this scenes have lowered the bar for the comedies that have followed it. A year before There's Something About Mary, Mike Myers's Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery poked gentle fun at the dated double entendres and supposedly risque sexual content of the spy movies of the 1960s. A year after There's Something About Mary, the sequel to Austin Powers shows coprophagy and makes jokes about child molestation.

By far the most appalling and outrageous of the new gross-out comedies is the movie version of the cartoon show South Park. Most of its gags and images cannot even be described without going beyond the bounds of civilized discourse. It's sexually explicit, blasphemous, and even has traces of anti-Semitism. The fact that two major motion picture studios thought it was acceptable for release -- and that its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have had the gall to complain about the film's R rating -- is a mark of astonishing social irresponsibility.

Yet honesty compels me to admit that South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is uproarious. And that may be the most appalling fact of all. Parker and Stone are possessors of a genuine comic imagination. What they lack is any kind of elevating sensibility. Parker and Stone are like brilliantly funny four-year-olds. They can make you laugh effortlessly with their clowning. But vomit, excrement, and curse words are what really crack them up.

So here's where we are at the end of the millennium: American comedy is the province of a bunch of four-year-olds with tens of millions of dollars at their disposal. Now that's a horror show.

A contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, John Podhoretz is editorial-page editor of the New York Post.