Netflix Movie Review: Cannibal! The Musical
By: Alec Davis
Cannibal! The Musical (1996)
Director: Trey Parker
Starring: Trey Parker, Toddy Walters, Jason McHugh, Matt Stone, Dian Bachar
Back in the mid ‘90s, before Trey Parker started creating South Park, he made a really low-budget musical about the only man in America ever convicted of cannibalism, Al Packer. Packer was a prospector who went on a trip through the mountains in Colorado during the winter of 1873, and when the rest of his party died, Packer was forced to resort to cannibalism to survive. He’s a bit of a celebrity out west, so naturally while Trey Parker was attending the University of Colorado, he decided to make a comedy musical western about Packer’s journey.
You can definitely tell that this movie came from the same mind that created South Park, because the sense of humor in this movie can only be described as phenomenally stupid. This isn’t necessarily an insult though. A lot of it is actually pretty funny. There were a lot of good subtle sight gags, and while the songs aren’t quite as good as the ones Parker would eventually write for The Book of Mormon, they’re still the highlight of the movie. Actually in retrospect it reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Blazing Saddles, but on a low budget and less intelligent than either of them.
There is, of course, some fairly offensive humor too though. Casual homophobia and sexism are played for laughs a few times, but not enough to the point where it ruins the movie. There are some pretty stupid poop and sex jokes in there too, but I wasn’t terribly surprised by any of this. Knowing who was behind the movie I just kind of took most of it in stride.
That being said, there is one bit that is genuinely unforgivably offensive. For a full ten minute scene there is a group of Japanese people inexplicably pretending to be a Native American tribe, and the joke for the whole scene is that nobody can tell that they aren’t Native Americans. It’s horrendously racist and it made me more than a little uncomfortable. And it wasn’t just restricted to that one scene either. The chief of the “tribe” showed up a bunch of times afterwards as a recurring character for no real reason. It was seriously bad enough that it ruined the rest of the movie for me.
I’m honestly not entirely sure what I thought of this movie. It’s really funny about as often as it’s patently unfunny, and while it’s entertaining it’s definitely nothing to write home about. All I can really say is that if you like South Park you’ll probably like it, or at the very least you’ll be able to appreciate the glimpse into Trey Parker’s early work. If you don’t like South Park, I can’t say I recommend it. You’re probably not missing much if you skip this one.
Since not everyone can afford to go to the theater to see a new movie every weekend, I’ll be here every week to tell you about a movie you can find on Netflix instead. Because we can all use some good movies in our lives.