South Park: The Cult of Cartman - Revelations DVD Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 10.20.2008
The best of Cartman at his very worst.
Created by: Trey Parker & Matt Stone
DVD Release Date: 10/7/2008 Running Time: 264 minutes
When discussing prime-time animated television shows, there are two series in the last twenty years that truly stand out as truly iconic: The Simpsons and South Park. Not even the close third, Family Guy, can claim as impressive a status in pop culture as these two, both of which have been ongoing shows for longer than nearly any entertainment program on television today. While The Simpsons was of course the first to the race, being in its twentieth season, it is the Matt Parker/Trey Stone-created program about four kids from a small town in Colorado that garners the most attention. A good portion of this is due to controversy, an aspect the creators have never shied away from—more to the point, it helped put the show (and by extension, its network Comedy Central) on the map. The show never fails to skewer whatever they feel like, be it celebrities, religion, politics or even just social attitudes. The reason for the show’s success has been as much for its satirical skill as it is for the controversy, of course, and it has done so in a consistently more gloves-off approach then it’s FOX counterparts.
Of course, of all the characters on the show, none stand out more than Eric Cartman. The overweight, sadistic little kid has unfailingly been the funniest and most offensive character on the show, from his bigoted, reactionary tendencies to his efforts to manipulate everyone around him—and usually in the most offensive way possible. It’s no surprise that he has easily become the most popular character on the show, and that episodes centered on him tend to be the most successful. Thus, it is also no surprise that he is he is the first character to receive a DVD compilation set based entirely around him, entitled South Park: The Cult of Cartman – Revelations.
The boxed set is a collection of twelve episodes, all of which are Cartman-centered in one way or another. The first, "Scott Tenorman Must Die,” features young Eric at perhaps his absolute worst, as he becomes obsessed with getting revenge on a ninth-grader who sells him pubic hair. In his quest for revenge, he tries several things including the failed training a horse to castrate Scott and creating a forged video of Radiohead telling the world that Scott isn’t cool. None of it works, until finally Cartman lands upon an ingenious plan that shows just how psychopathic the young boy truly is. This first episode is truly one of Cartman’s greatest and most shocking moments, and it’s a necessity to any set featuring him.
"A.W.E.S.O.M.-O," the second episode, currently holds the record amount South Park episodes for being completed the quickest, in only three days. The episode is one of the many Cartman/Butters episodes, and features Eric dressing up in a cheesy robot costume in order to prank Butters, only to find out that Butters knows a secret about him that he plans to reveal the next time Cartman plays a prank. Cartman must accompany Butters on a trip to Los Angeles, posing as the robot, in order to do away with the evidence. Along the way, he is discovered by a movie studio that uses him with Butter’s permission to come up with movie ideas, as well as the military who want to make him into a weapon. While the episode has some funny moments, it’s probably the weakest of the collection here, and really was just filler during season eight.
The Butters/Cartman episodes continue in the much better "The Death Of Eric Cartman." After the rest of the kids at school decide that the time has finally come to ignore Cartman, our pudgy antihero believes himself to be dead. Only Butters acknowledges his presence, thus making him the person Cartman latches onto. Believing that he’s stuck on earth until he makes amends, he attempts to do so through Butters. The strength of this episode is the interaction between the two main kids of the episode; Butters has a way of bringing out the best in Cartman as a character, good or bad, and it’s almost certainly the reason so many episodes on this set revolve around the two. It’s also fun to see Cartman go through and recount his past sins and attempt to make up for them in token ways.
Of all the episodes contained here, none quite have the epic feel of "Cartoon Wars, Part I & II." South Park is often able to do these sorts of episodes that take huge steps in skewering anything and everything they can. “Cartoon Wars” is an ambitious two-parter that takes shots at its closest rival, Family Guy, while at the same time siding with it in satirizing the public outcry both shows receive for their controversial content. After a Family Guy episode dares to depict Mohammed, people across the globe react in outrage and fear, expecting another attack by terrorists on American soil. Cartman, surprisingly, is furious at the show and travels to Hollywood with a skeptical Kyle in tow in order to stop the episode from airing. Along the way, we meet a certain spiky-haired skateboarding kid who has the same plans and learn a shocking secret about the writers of the FOX show. These two episodes are probably the best on the set and offer no shortage of laughs, providing both pot-shots and tributes to its fellow adult-oriented cartoon.
In "Le Petite Tourette," Cartman discovers the existence of Tourette’s syndrome, the neurosis that causes people to be unable to control what they say. He decides to use it to his advantage so he can say whatever he wants; of course, this being South Park, everyone believes him except Kyle, who gets punished when he tries to call Cartman out on it. While it works to Cartman’s advantage at first, he soon develops an inability to stop some dark secrets of his past to come up just before he’s about to get his own Dateline episode with Chris Hanson. While potentially one of the most offensive shows on the DVD set, Parker and Stone are able, as they often are, to edge that line and never quite leap across it.
"Tonsil Trouble" is the first episode of season twelve and, like many South Park episodes, deals with a subject most shows would consider taboo. While getting his tonsils out, Cartman is accidentally given HIV-infected blood. He attempts to gain the sympathy and support of those around him, only to find that AIDS is no longer the hot disease, having taken a backseat to cancer. When Kyle is unable to stop laughing—Cartman has wished AIDS on him many times, after all—Cartman decides to get revenge by giving him the disease as well. The two must then work together to try and find a cure. This episode is quite deft at pointing out the “disease of the year” style that charity efforts can unfortunately take, and creates another great story by forcing Kyle and Eric to work together.
"Eek, A Penis!" is also from season twelve, and features Cartman having to take over the teaching of their class when Mrs. Garrison loses control of her temper due to wanting to be reverted to a man. Cartman helps the kids cheat to score high on an upcoming test, which results in him getting a chance to help underprivileged inner-city children. As he adopts a more appropriate look and tries to help his newly-found students learn to cheat, Mrs. Garrison gets a new phallus grown on the back of a mouse who escapes. While the Garrison stuff is honestly a little dull, it thankfully ends the Mrs. Garrison story arc and allows that character to move forward and be funny again. Meanwhile, the Cartman stuff is by far the best, a spot-on parody of Edward James Olmos and all the many “Inspirational Teacher” movies out there.
"Cartmanland" ranks with "A.W.E.S.O.M.-O" as one of the weaker episodes here. Eric wins a million-dollar inheritance from his grandmother and decides to use it in order to buy his own amusement park. Of course, he doesn’t let anyone in—the point is that he’s always wanted to have a park with no lines. At the same time, Kyle has an infected case of hemorrhoids, and cursing his bad luck yet Cartman’s good, he goes through a crisis of faith. Much like the other, this episode seems largely filler and never reaches the heights of humor or satire that the other episodes here do, nor does Cartman hit any evil highs. It’s more an episode that is just there.
"Up the Down Steroid" takes aim at steroids and the Special Olympics. As Jimmy and Timmy prepare for the Special Olympics, Jimmy is looking for something to give him an edge. He gets anabolic steroids from one of the other participants, and things take an ugly turn as he starts to get more aggressive and even beats up his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Cartman gets the idea to fake being retarded so that he can compete, figuring it should be an easy time. The after-school special-like feel of this episode is a lot of fun, and the rendition of Cartman pretending to be “special” is as hilarious as it is offensive.
"Super Fun Time", is the last episode from season twelve (and thus one of the three episodes never released on DVD before), and really doesn’t feel like a Cartman episode so much. His only presence in the episode is in escaping with Butters from a field trip to Pioneer Village, an old-west educational park, so he can play at a nearby amusement center. Meanwhile, the village is taken over by hostage-taking thieves…but despite the situation, the employees refuse to break character. While there are some funny moments in here, this is really more of a Stan-centered episode then Cartman, and one can only assume its inclusion here was to provide more new episodes on DVD to enhance the set’s selling power. It’s not a bad episode; it simply seems out of place here.
The last episode ends the DVD on a strong note. "Ginger Kids," from season nine, starts off with Cartman giving a presentation in class about how people with pale skin, red hair and freckles—or “gingers”—are soulless and evil creatures. Kyle is, of course, offended by Cartman’s hate-speech, and enlists Stan and Kenny’s help in making Cartman look like a ginger. Now discriminated against due to the very hate-speech he gave, Cartman reaches a new level of psychotic, as he argues that gingers are the Chosen race and seeks to ensure their dominance. It’s one of the great “Evil Cartman” episodes, almost on par with "Scott Tenorman Must Die” and “The Passion of the Jew,” and well worth watching if you’ve never seen it.
The episode selection on this set is somewhat sketchy; several seminal Cartman episodes are missing, such as “Faith+1,” “Chicken Lover,” “Die, Hippie, Die” and “Casa Bonita.” I would have much rather seen any of these instead of "A.W.E.S.O.M.-O," “Cartmanland” and “Super Fun Time.” However, there isn’t truly a bad episode out of the bunch, and for any Cartman fan the majority of these really are essential viewing. The only other problem is that, with the exception of the season twelve episodes, all of these have been on DVD before so it is essentially a double-dip DVD. This makes their essentiality a bit diminished, though they’re all still quite good.
Episodes Rating: 8.0
Presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the episodes on this DVD set are…well, South Park episodes. One is not expecting a lot of stunning visuals from the notoriously and purposefully elementary animation. However, the transfer is solid, and all colors are bold and well-defined, including blacks. There are no issues with compression, and while this is nothing that will test the limits of any television, the episodes look as good as they possibly can.
Video Rating: 6.5
The audio tracks are in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that work fine, even if they don’t push the limits of what a home theater system can do. Most of the audio comes from the center channels, while the others are reserved for just a few ambient sounds. Dialogue and score are well-leveled, and it sounds as authentic an experience as the originals were as seen on TV . This appears to be, essentially, a direct lift from the television tracks, and that’s perfectly fine.
Audio Rating: 6.5
The special features is where this set truly falls down, in that there really are none. While the box states that there are “Original Introductions to Each Episode by Eric Cartman,” these are simply seconds-long moments where Cartman delivers a line of wisdom relating to the episode. While they are funny in and of themselves, they don’t constitute a special feature and largely fall flat. The set also comes with a sticker of Cartman from “Faith+1” and a Cult of Cartman membership card. One could have hoped for some sort of commentary track or maybe a featurette about Cartman himself, but we are left without such.
Special Features Rating: 2.0
The 411: While the episodes within the South Park: The Cult of Cartman - Revelations DVD set are must-haves for any fan of South Park and Eric Cartman in particular, most of these episodes can be found on the previous seasons on DVD. The lack of special features mean that is nothing new here, with the exception of the three episodes from season twelve (which will be on DVD itself soon enough). Still, for those who have not bought South Park on DVD before and want to sate their Cartman hunger, this is a set worth checking out, even if it otherwise fails as a double dip.