Matt Stone and Trey Parker take their long-running animated series in a new and interesting direction with the made-for-TV movie, "South Park: Post COVID."
What's great for fans of the hit animated series, which has been running since 1997, is the way the creators continuously make it fresh. After experimenting with serialized episodes in the past couple of seasons, the dynamic duo of Parker and Stone have a historic $900 million deal in place to produce more episodes and spin-off movies for Paramount+.
Their first made-for-TV movie, “South Park: Post COVID,” takes the long-running series into unexplored territory, focusing on the main characters as adults. The narrative borrows heavily from Stephen King's "IT," as a grown-up Stan receives a phone call from his one-time bestfriend Kyle.
Kyle reminds Stan that he made a promise to return to South Park in case anything bad has happened. The catastrophic event that brings the group back together is the death of a major character: Kenny.
While easily one of the longest running jokes on the series, the humor lies in the familiarity with the narrative element at play. We’re all expecting a major character to have died, and the fact that Kenny has died again is hilarious albeit lazy.
Kenny’s mysterious death is the catalyst that brings the longtime friends back together, despite Stan’s hesitance. While usually an ensemble series, Stan’s character is who the audience navigates with in this futuristic world.
Having moved away from South Park, his return reintroduces the audience to the adult versions of characters like Jimmy, Tolkien, Tweak and Craig.
One of the most heartwarming moments was to see Jimmy’s dreams of becoming a standup comedian come into fruition. He’s been anointed the moniker as the most “woke” comic in what are certainly some jabs at Jimmy Fallon, who hosts “The Tonight Show” on NBC.
Exploring these characters as adults leaves room for a lot of great stories to be told. It’s also great to see the version of the future that Stone and Parker envisions. There’s a really great joke about Amazon’s Alexa that plays with the conventions of science fiction in a way that was not only really cool, but also felt unexpected for the series.
As Stan returns to South Park after the death of Kenny, we get the idea that the core group of friends have spent their adulthood estranged from one another and so begins the mystery box of their relationship.
Most of the drama, and some of the funniest moments, derive from the anticipation of seeing the grownup versions of these characters — how they’ve either changed or remained the same.
Easily one of the greatest moments in the movie is when we finally catch up with Eric Cartman and his Jewish family. Having spent years making fun of Kyle for his religion, Stone and Parker mine some ironic humor with the direction the character goes in.
What’s even funnier is the way his children are instinctively mean to Kyle, almost as if Cartman was genetically coded to be as cruel as possible to his Jewish friend, and the fact that she sounds eerily familiar to Kyle’s mother, who was also a target of Cartman’s jokes.
One of the trademarks of the series is the running satirical commentary on society that doesn’t hold back any punches. This movie spends an hour looking forward to a post-pandemic future, which apparently lasts well into the kids’ adulthood.
The movie starts off with a sort of infomercial announcing that the pandemic is finally over before quickly making it clear that there’s been at least a 30-year time jump.
We learn it was the beginning of the pandemic that tore the core group of friends apart from each other. Hinted at early on, the mystery as to what really happened between Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny drives the runtime until the revelation at the end that ties everything together.
Another great joke in the movie is when the characters find out one of them isn’t vaccinated, citing a lack of personal research and an allergy to shellfish as the reasons. Apparently shellfishness, as said in the show, is a valid exemption from the vaccine.
There are a lot of great inside jokes for fans of the animated series. At one point, the disillusioned Stan searches for existential answers while sitting on the toilet. Suddenly, in his head, he begins to hear Christmas jingles and excitedly jumps up thinking that his one-time friend Mr. Hankey has returned. For those unfamiliar, the character is an anthropomorphic log of feces who usually appears during the Christmas season.
What he sees, however, is simply a log of his own creation. He dejectedly flushes the toilet and it becomes excruciatingly evident that the magic from his youth has been gone for so long. The adventures of his youth, that fans have spent decades witnessing, has led him to become an alcoholic like his father. His character resonates the most emotionally.
There is a shocking end to the movie that definitely leaves room open for the narrative to continue. If you’re a fan of “South Park,” this is a movie you won’t want to miss.