Judge Eric Profancik thinks that this episode of South Park is neither fun nor funny.
Our reviews of Christmas Time In South Park (published November 28th, 2007), South Park: The Complete First Season (published April 7th, 2003), South Park: The Complete Second Season (published March 8th, 2004), South Park: The Complete Third Season (published January 14th, 2004), South Park: The Complete Fourth Season (published July 19th, 2004), South Park: The Complete Fifth Season (published February 23rd, 2005), South Park: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 11th, 2005), South Park: The Complete Seventh Season (published March 21st, 2006), South Park: The Complete Eighth Season (published August 29th, 2006), South Park: The Complete Ninth Season (published February 28th, 2007), South Park: The Complete Tenth Season (published August 21st, 2007), South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season (published August 12th, 2008), South Park: The Complete Fourteenth Season (Blu-ray) (published May 1st, 2011), South Park: The Complete Fifteenth Season (Blu-ray) (published March 23rd, 2012), South Park: A Little Box Of Butters (published October 13th, 2010), South Park: Imaginationland (published March 24th, 2008), South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (published March 9th, 2009), South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (Blu-Ray) (published March 10th, 2009), South Park: The Cult Of Cartman: Revelations (published October 1st, 2008), South Park: The Hits, Volume 1 (published November 8th, 2006), South Park, Volume 2 (published January 21st, 2000), and South Park, Volume 5 (published January 21st, 2000) are also available.
"I think if more people saw The Passion they'd have faith in
Trey Parker and Matt Stone rarely miss an opportunity to satirize the latest buzz in the news. When Elian Gonzalez was the big story, South Park made fun of it. When Saddam Hussein was captured, South Park made fun of it. So when The Passion of the Christ became the buzz film of 2004, were any of us surprised to see South Park crank out an episode poking fun at the film? You certainly shouldn't have been, if you'd been paying attention.
Facts of the Case
Once again, Cartman is lambasting Kyle about his Jewish heritage, and Kyle is getting seriously mad and tells Cartman to shove it. But Cartman has seen The Passion fifty times, making him an authority on how nasty Jews are. Infuriated at Cartman, Kyle goes to see the film, causing him a crisis of faith. Kyle can't believe what the Jews did to Jesus, so he proposes that they should apologize. This enrages the South Park Jews, who use Kyle as an example of how the film is anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, Stan and Kenny decide to go see the film because everyone else has; they go, and they hate it. They demand their $18 back, but the theater won't give it to them, so they decide to get it from Mel Gibson himself. As the two go off to visit Gibson, Cartman manipulates the faithful of South Park; they believe he's started a fan club for the film, but it's really a thinly veiled neo-Nazi group, with Cartman posing as a little Hitler. As Cartman rallies the faithful, the Jews march against the theater to demand the film be pulled. Meanwhile, Stan and Kenny meet up with Gibson, who refuses to give them $18. In fact, he's so stunned they hate the film, he goes mad. He paints his face ala Braveheart, strips down to his undies, gets in a Mad Max-like vehicle, and chases the boys back to South Park. There, Cartman's Nazi movement, the Jews, and Mel Gibson come together with explosive consequences.
I really like South Park—except for that lull around the third and fourth seasons—so I was quite surprised to find myself disliking this parody of The Passion. Normally Matt and Trey have killer instincts and know just what buttons to push and what to skewer. They have a knack for making light of serious situations and masterfully putting the spotlight on the ridiculous. But when it came to that little film by Mel Gibson, I think the boys missed the mark…by quite a wide shot. Instead of satirizing the film and its "surprising" popularity, Matt and Trey simply mocked and belittled it, its fans, and its creator. Instead of using their delicate wit, they took out the old Sledge-O-Matic and brutalized the viewer. (Maybe that in itself is a part of the satire: paralleling the brutality of the film with the brutality of their satire?)
As you may have gleaned from the episode synopsis, the "satire" is downright brutal. While the Jews "get off" easily in the episode, Christians and Mel Gibson are absolutely torn apart. (For the record, while I was raised a good Catholic lad—and thus have some idea of all the religious dogma related to the film—I've given up practicing as I simply don't have faith—I need evidence.) The Christians are depicted as mindless lemmings who will simply follow anyone who appears to have a religious message. As such, they're immediately drawn to Cartman as Hitler. Wearing a slick little uniform and carrying a stick, Cartman is only missing that all-too-familiar mustache to make it absolutely clear what's going on. Then again, if you can't understand the German he's speaking, then we're in trouble. They think he's speaking Aramaic and praising God, but anyone with half a brain should realize what evil stunt Cartman is using. It's really not funny, because Cartman is preaching for another "Final Solution." That's heavy stuff. That's the type of thing you just don't joke about. It's far too delicate a topic to attempt to make into a satire. As such, it's mean, it's cruel, and it's downright ugly.
And then there's poor Mel Gibson. I don't understand what Matt and Trey were trying to do here. Instead of poking fun at his intense religious beliefs (which provides interesting fodder with his large family), they simply made him out as a complete lunatic. Mel Gibson is absolutely, positively insane. He runs around in his underwear, spreads his feces on doors, and tries to kill little children. Well, I'm not exactly sure he was trying to kill Stan and Kenny, but, again, this just wasn't funny. Is Gibson crazy because of his religious beliefs and making this film? Is that all you have to say? While I may not have faith, I can appreciate other people's beliefs. While I disagree with many of those beliefs, I think it's noble to have faith in "something greater." Thus, for me, what Matt and Trey did wasn't anything akin to satire. It was just excessively broad strokes of malicious intent.
To add a little bit of weight to this disc, two additional episodes are included: "Christian Rock Hard" from season seven and "Red Hot Catholic Love" from season six. As should be obvious, the disc has been given a theme: Those Silly Catholics. Okay, it doesn't say that on the packaging, but that's the impression I got from the episodes. Here's a quick refresher on these two:
• "Christian Rock Hard"
• "Red Hot Catholic Love"
"Red Hot Catholic Love" is another episode that is a bit heavy handed. While the "poop" subplot is interesting, it doesn't really connect with the episode's ultimate message. And, having everyone sleeping with boys was much; then tossing in aliens in the Vatican was too much; and then having some Queen Spider at the Vatican as well was way too much. The satire was obscured by nonsense.
And nonsense is exactly what "The Passion of the Jew" deteriorated to as well. Thankfully, "Christian Rock Hard" is classic South Park. It stays true to its roots of biting satire and dry wit and avoids becoming nonsensical. It playfully skewers the music industry, the government, and Cartman without being downright nasty. This episode is your best bet on the disc.
As for the transfers of these three episodes, you'll have no problems with the full-frame video and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The colors are cartoon bright with nice detail and no errors. You'll be able to hear every line of dialogue clearly without any hiss or distortion. Sadly, there are no subtitles included.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Timely and hilarious, South Park has always been able to capitalize on current events and turn drama into comedy. This compilation of episodes that focus on the Catholic faith are disturbing but thought provoking. Parker and Stone know how to take the news and make you think about the underlying factors. South Park is at its best when it subversively makes you think.
It's a rare and sad day when we can't count on South Park to provide us with some solid laughs. It's an even sadder day when we find an episode that completely fails to live up to its duty to satirize and poke fun at society. And that's what we have here with "The Passion of the Jew." We have an episode that is simply mean spirited and just not funny.
I can hear you all saying, "Judge Profancik, you've missed the point! South Park is at its best when it offends, and you're obviously offended, so it must be good!" I realize that South Park thrives on offending people, but that offensive stance comes from poking fun at people/places/things and making us realize the follies of our ways. "The Passion of the Jew" fails in that mission and is really nothing more than a full-out attack on Catholicism.
Surprisingly, I'm not going to recommend this one for purchase. I don't think the episode lives up to the "quality" of the series, and, aside from two other episodes, it's a bare bones disc. You're much better off, if you're a fan of the show, to buy the complete seasons for just a few dollars more.
"The Passion of the Jew" is hereby found guilty of sucking. It is remanded to give me back my $19.99!
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• Bonus Episodes: "Christian Rock Hard" and "Red Hot Catholic Love"
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