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Cannibal! The Musical

Review by Barbara A. Carr

I'm sorry that it took me so long to see this film. It started out simply enough. The idea of seeing a musical comedy on cannibalism, even if it was from the bizarre and often brilliant minds of South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't appeal to me. Cannibal! The Musical came to Austin (apparently twice, once during SXSW) and both times I gave it amiss.

It wasn't until someone suggested I visit a website about the movie from one of the producers (Jason McHugh) that I even thought about it at all. So I went to CRAP only to read a fascinating account on how the film got made and the drama behind the scenes. The shortened version is ... Trey Parker made a movie trailer for Alferd Packer! The Musical for a class project. He put off making the trailer because his impending nuptials got canceled when he discovered his fiancée was having an affair. After a brief depression he wrote lots of songs slamming his fiancée and Trey and his friends got together and made the trailer. Everyone in class loved the trailer and wondered if a real movie would be made. Trey, Matt and Jason decided to form a production company and get the money to make the film.

After reading about it, I knew I would have to see the film. So the next day I went to video stores looking for it. My favorite video store had one copy (checked out). Blockbuster didn't have it at all, but while buying the extreme version of Chef Aid: The South Park Album at a new video/music store I saw that they had three copies of Cannibal and many copies of BASEketball (another Trey/Matt project that came out in 1998 that I avoided like the plague). So I signed up for a video card and got both films so I could make it a Trey & Matt film festival.

Cannibal: The Musical tells of the misadventures of Alferd Packer, the only human in the U.S. tried for and convicted of cannibalism. It tells the tale of how one horse (Lianne, Trey's ex-fiancée's name by the way) resulted in a several miners ending up dead and turned into lunchie-munchies. The songs are both catchy and funny, from the goofy Shpadoinkle to the chirpy, infectious, Let's Build A Snowman! Hell, even the love song, When I Was On Top Of You is as poignant as it is silly. Be forewarned the music is so infuriatingly catchy that you will find yourself humming some of the tunes days after you've seen it.

Alferd (Trey Parker, working under the pseudonym, Juan Schwartz, which by the way was the name that real Packer used in Wyoming when he escaped from prison) reluctantly becomes a guide, for a group of miners (Matt Stone, Jason McHugh, Dian Bachar, Ian Hardin and Jon Hegel) leaving Utah for the more lucrative gold mines in Breckenridge. Alferd is only slightly familiar with Colorado territory and needless to say he gets his party lost several times. When his only friend, his horse, Lianne takes off in the night, he's convinced she had been taken by some swarmy trappers and must be rescued. This film has all the elements of a quest (think Holy Grail, only without the coconuts). The miners figure out that they are pretty much screwed but they attempt to make the best of it.

It is a well crafted film with unfortunately bad makeup. The beards the miners have to sport at various times looked downright cheesy (except for the actors who had natural beards). All the actors were forced to sing and dance and they all did an admirable job. Trey has a fine voice, who knew? In South Park, he's usually hamming it up with cheesy Neil Diamond intonations. The locations are breathtaking. Considering this film was made for about $75,000 it's very well-made. The gore element wasn't too bad for a person who hates gory films (umm, that would be me).

Earlier I made a comment about Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This film does remind me of that movie. I'm not saying it's a direct rip-off or anything. I just feel that the film has a similar goofy sincerity and sweetness that I found in Holy Grail (still my all-time favorite film, EVER). So if you see this film in your video store, do rent it. I think you'll find it great fun and before you know it when you watch the ending music of South Park (when the Branniff plane flies by) you too will be singing, "The sky is blue and all the leaves are green ..."


(Out of five)

Here is an excellent website with the most extensive information on Cannibal ! Even more extensive than Crap's site.

Buy Cannibal: The Musical on!

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