It's hard to believe that South Park has been around for eleven years already. The brainchild from Trey Parker and Matt Stone was a breakout success in 1997 when it premiered on Comedy Central. Ever since then, the show has maintained a high level of popularity and is easily one of Comedy Central's most successful franchises. Much like The Simpsons, South Park has ingrained itself into pop-culture and has endeared itself to multiple generations of viewers. For the purposes of this review we'll just assume that you already know all about the show, the characters, and everything in between that makes it tick.
For some time now, Comedy Central has been releasing complete seasons of South Park on DVD. Not only that, but individual themed discs have popped up now and then as well with a few episodes each. The latest such endeavor is more of a character centric release, which more or less acts like a best of compilation. The Cult of Cartman: Revelations follows the misadventures of everyone's favorite fat kid across two discs and twelve episodes from seasons five through twelve. It's uncut, uncensored, and a great way for casual fans to get a hilarious dose of South Park without having to shell out cash for the complete seasons.
As a character study, The Cult of Cartman features some outstanding episodes that are easily considered all-time classics. While watching this set you'll really get a nice picture painted of Eric Cartman. He's a pudgy, vile, racist bigot, who loves torturing people, almost always gets his way, and he murder someone with laughter being the only punishment (except for the time he was grounded for trying to exterminate the Jews). Yes, it's safe to say that with regards to everything wrong or indecent about South Park, Cartman finds himself at the epicenter of the discussion.
The fun starts here on the first disc with "Scott Tenorman Must Die", which is standard viewing for the show in all honesty. In this episode Cartman buys some pubic hair from Scott Tenorman for $10, and goes on to get conned again and again. Cartman attempts to form a posse to take Scott down, but eventually has to take matters into his own hands with a devious trap. To make a long story short Cartman kills Scott's parents, chops them up, puts them in a chili recipe, and tricks his nemesis into chowing down. This is a fine example of just how far Cartman will go, what he can get away with in the show, and it's also something that's referenced in several other episodes from here on out.
One of my favorite episodes, "Awesome-O", is up next and this one has Cartman dressing up as a robot in an effort to fool Butters. In the process of attempting to make Butters look like an ass, he discovers that the kid has a tape of him dressing up like Britney Spears and making out with a cardboard cutout of Justin Timberlake. The real fun begins when Butters and Awesome-O travel to L.A., where Cartman gets roped into providing Hollywood producers with hundreds of ideas for Adam Sandler movies. Following "Awesome-O" is "The Death of Eric Cartman", which sees Cartman ignored by all the kids in South Park. This convinces him that he's dead, and Butters is the only one who can see him.
In "Cartoon Wars Parts 1 & 2" Cartman and Kyle go head to head over Family Guy when the show threatens to depict an image of Muhammad. These episodes got a lot of play over the theme of censorship and how close they toed the line. Yes, sometimes even South Park can push the limits. Despite the fact that this collection is uncensored, I'm sorry to report that no, you won't actually see Muhammad hand Peter Griffin a salmon-lined football helmet. The first disc closes with "Le Petit Tourette", which bestows Cartman with the gift of Tourette Syndrome. Need I say more?
On to disc two, "Tonsil Trouble" kicks things off with Cartman having his tonsils out, which makes him contract HIV. This spawns Cartman's attempts to give Kyle AIDS. "Eek, a Penis!" is up next, and this episode sees Garrison on a quest to get his manhood back by genetically growing it on a lab rat. Cartman becomes a substitute teacher in the meantime and goes to an urban school to teach the kids about the wonders of cheating like Bill Belichick.
Moving further into disc two sees other classics such as "Cartmanland", where Cartman gets his own amusement park, and "Up the Down Steroid", which sees Cartman pretending to be disabled in order to participate in the Special Olympics. "Super Fun Time" is the most recent episode of the bunch and sees the kids taking a field trip to a nightmarish place where they reenact 1864. Naturally Cartman kidnaps Butters and goes to a Super Phun Thyme amusement center. And finally, Cult of Cartman finishes off with the "Ginger Kids" episode, which looks at Gingers (redheaded kids with freckles) and their soulless society. All is fun and games (and hate speech) until Kyle, Stan, and Kenny play a joke on Cartman and turn him into a Ginger. This prompts him to lead the Gingers in a rebellion against other people in an attempt to take over the world.
Whether you're a diehard South Park fan or a casual one, The Cult of Cartman: Revelations is a great collection of episodes. In many ways Cartman represents all that is right, and wrong, about this show. Every episode here is arguably a classic in its own right, and at the end of the day the only shortcomings of this "Best Of" collection is that there are more episodes that should have been included. For those of you who don't want to buy the entire series, keep your fingers crossed that Comedy Central will continue to release collections such as this.
The Cult of Cartman: Revelations is presented on DVD with its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. If you have ever seen the show during its broadcast, or have caught a glimpse at one of the DVDs, then you already know what to expect. South Park isn't exactly a groundbreaking program in terms of visuals, but its simplistic design allows for picture quality that's relatively hard to mess up. The colors are solid all around with fine contrast and the video is very clean in most all of these episodes. Considering the bulk of this collection comes from more recent seasons, you can expect less softness all around and very little grain. Overall this is a solid looking release and it mirrors other presentations of the show on DVD.
The audio in The Cult of Cartman: Revelations is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 as its main source of output. The sound quality is very good here, with clean dialogue and catchy music being the standout elements. The sense of immersion isn't quite as good as one would hope, but this is a show with somewhat limited range, so the front channel suits most of the material just fine. It's worth noting once again that these episodes are uncut, so you can expect to here loads of f-bombs being dropped.
Animated menus with Cartman spouting advice on life and a couple of inserts (an Eric Theodore Cartman Society membership card and sticker) are all you're going to find here for bonus content.
The Cult of Cartman: Revelations is a fun collection of twelve episodes featuring Cartman at his absolutely best, or worst as the case may be. If you already own the complete seasons of South Park then there really is no need to pick up this release. There's just no reason to come for a double-dip, no matter how enticing the animated menus or packaging is. However, if you are a casual fan, or one who is on a budget, then you can consider this "best of" set a strong recommendation.