South Park: Publish COVID marks the primary of two South Park films this 12 months for Paramount+, with twelve more to come, together with six extra seasons of the present. That’s plenty of South Park, however Publish COVID proves a surprisingly compelling story.
The opening sequence celebrates the top of the coronavirus pandemic, with rapturous crowds tossing their masks and gleefully destroying Zoom’s headquarters. However the pandemic is revealed to have lasted for a number of many years; the boys are actually middle-aged males, crushed by the load of the world, residing a dreary, remoted existence, understanding of their flats, far-off from the city of South Park.
Studying of the dying of Kenny (performed with gravitas, one among his deaths that really matter) brings them again collectively to the hollowed-out ruins of their hometown, a patchwork of decaying franchises and crumbling homes, the place it’s instantly introduced that Kenny was killed by a brand new coronavirus variant, which means that the pandemic nonetheless isn’t over.
It’s a relatable introduction, to say the least, an acknowledgment of the deep, dreary pandemic fatigue that has prematurely aged us all, reworking us into unbearable tradition warriors who bicker endlessly over security measures.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have envisioned a dystopian future impressed by a feverish mix of Blade Runner and cringy Babylon Bee headlines, the place meat has been forcibly changed by bug protein, punchlines have been eradicated by wokeness, and criminals stroll the streets unchallenged, the police having been pushed away.
Publish COVID paints a really reactionary image, even for South Park, though it takes a swing or two within the different path by mercilessly mocking anti-vaxxers; largely, it’s a conservative’s nightmare of the long run (or slightly, current).
A few of it’s tedious, a few of it’s genuinely humorous, however most of it’s partaking within the exercise that it criticizes essentially the most – advantage signalling. The character of Jimmy, who has grown as much as turn out to be a toothless late night time host, imbues the notion that comedy is now outlined extra by cultural signifying than humor. And Publish COVID’s repeated condemnation of wokeness is its personal type of advantage signalling, simply aimed toward a distinct crowd.
The creators appear conscious of this, to some extent – the ultimate scene sees the boys lamenting how the pandemic has decreased them to repetitive, uncompromising tradition warriors, weary of flying their respective flags.
Certainly, Publish COVID is imbued with a deep, aching longing to return to the outdated establishment, a craving that reaches far past the coronavirus. However the story of this made-for-tv-movie is genuinely intriguing, with some nice jokes rooted in character dynamics, placing a brand new spin on well-worn tropes.
Acquainted faces return, burnt-out by limitless quarantine, financial decline and normal malaise; a shocking exception is Eric Cartman, who has acquired a loving spouse and household, together with a deep, dramatic devotion to Judaism.
Kyle, in fact, remembers his “good friend” solely as a corrosive, hateful anti-Semite, and may’t carry himself to consider that Cartman has modified, particularly given Cartman’s outrageously performative demonstrations of Jewish religion; it appears like one among his twisted thoughts video games.
Cartman’s extended, psychotic bits had been all the time essentially the most memorable of his tales; therefore, the viewer, together with Kyle, is stored ready for the massive reveal, the inevitable unveiling of the lengthy con, for Lucy to drag away the soccer simply as Charlie Brown kicks. It has occurred so many occasions, and but, might play out each methods within the upcoming sequel; years of torment would possibly effectively have turned Kyle right into a paranoid mess, unable to acknowledge earnestness, or Cartman might nonetheless be the obsessive lunatic he was, dedicating his total life to a unhinged punchline.
Both means, it’s going to play out as Cartman performing as a foil to Stan and Kyle on this story, who wish to return and alter the previous, to repair the long run. The query is, is Cartman attempting to cease them as a result of he has lastly discovered success? Or … not?
As of late, Cartman hardly ever performs the position of the hyper-selfish id, the all-consuming vortex that pulls the hapless inhabitants of South Park alongside for the journey in absurd ponzi schemes and damaging ego journeys. Not too long ago, that position has been performed by Randy, and it’s very a lot on show right here; the unwavering dedication to an unfunny weed joke, the malignant narcissism, the lack to confess fault – that’s what Cartman was.
The truth that we’re nonetheless uncertain if Cartman is tricking Kyle is sort of spectacular; that punchline has been performed to dying, and it’s nonetheless a livewire.
Publish COVID is, primarily, a prolonged rant in opposition to the pandemic, one we’ve all heard and felt earlier than, however it’s additionally an intriguing spin on a drained format. South Park deliberately displays an period saturated with reboots and sequels, that includes previously fresh-faced characters returning wearily to our screens, gray and drained.
Like The Simpsons, nonetheless, South Park by no means stopped airing, and therefore, was by no means subjected to a nostalgia reboot; it simply retains trudging on, turning into more and more curmudgeonly and self-referential.
Not like The Simpsons, nonetheless, South Park nonetheless has the capability to shock.