‘Cannibal! The Musical’ Review: A Truly Shpadoinkle Day

Posted in The Screening Room by - September 11, 2015

My first film for Singin’ Septmber is Cannibal! The Musical, the first feature film from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. It’s a musical retelling of the story of Alferd Packer, an infamous cannibal who murdered his traveling partners while trapped in the mountains of Colorado. That being said, the film is a shining example of how the craft of two comedic geniuses has evolved. The movie is a rough approximation of what would become their signature comedy style on South Park, but it lacks the polish that has come to be expected from the comedy duo.

The story of Alferd Packer is told through flashbacks, as Alferd recounts his story to a reporter as he awaits his execution. He tells of his initial motivation to move, getting roped into guiding a posse to Colorado, and how much he loves his horse. His horse, Liane, plays a large part in the driving force behind the film, as it is stolen by devious fur trappers, which results in Packer going on a mission to retrieve her. Along the way, Packer and his group encounter Indians, played inconspicuously by Japanese actors, a cycloptic mountain man, and a growing lack of food, which drives some of the group to cannibalism. Packer is unwittingly framed for the cannibalism, and continues the search for his horse while trying to clear his name.

There are no standout performances to note, but Trey Parker, billed as Juan Schwartz, does a serviceable job as Packer. He is a man-child who seems to have the worst luck, and cares only for his wayward horse. He’s sympathetic, but ultimately a one dimensional character. Matt Stone has a minor part in the film, along with Dian Bachar who, for fans of the duos other works, will recognize him as “Squeak” Scolari from BASEketball. They are given very little to do in the piece, and are ultimately killed off-screen, reinforcing their expendable nature. 

For a musical however, there are very few memorable songs, which to me is a true test of quality. The two songs of note are “Shpadoinkle Day” and “Let’s Build a Snowman”. Since the film is a comedy, the songs are played purely for laughs, and while that’s fine, they don’t elicit the humor that I would have expected from the team. It also doesn’t help that Parker doesn’t have the best singing voice, and I always have a hard time separating his normal voice from the characters he voices in South Park.

My feelings towards the film aside, it was Parker’s first movie, being filmed while he was still in attendance at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He should be commended for putting together a film that is wildly ambitious for the budget and amount of technical prowess Parker had at the time. You can see the seeds of South Park in the works, particularly in the musical numbers that became so common in the show. However, unless you’re a huge fan of Parker and Stone, the film is cringe worthy at times, and doesn’t really offer enough for modern audiences in a world where South Park is still airing new episodes. 

Final Say: Skip It

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Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He’s a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You’ll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.

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