Cannibal! The Musical

Director: Trey Parker     
Cast: Ian Hardin, Jason McHugh, Matt Stone, Trey Parker

This 1996 movie has recently been re-released on movie, owing to the recent success of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's South Park television series. Indeed, the advertising for this re-release proudly proclaims it's "from the makers of South Park". Actually, though Matt Stone acts and did a few minor behind-the-scenes activities, this is essentially Trey Parker show. Not only did he act and direct, but he wrote the script and songs and did a lot else. So, how's this early effort? Those who are expecting the pace and cheerful vulgarity of South Park will no doubt be disappointed. And those expecting something reasonably slick will also be let down. This is a videotaped production; imagine a typical group production in TV11 or TV12 in high school that has access to semi- professional technical equipment, but with no budget and sophomoric acting and writing. Raise the levels of each of these attributes a few notches each, and you'll have this movie. But to tell the truth, there was a lot of fun in making and performing our productions when I was in that class, so I didn't have an instant prejudice for a movie with such a pedigree. I agree that it's cheap, juvenile, and not exactly a laughfest, but I kind of liked its tacky charm.

This is based of the historic Alfred Packer saga (covered seriously in The Legend of Alfred Packer), but they just center the movie around the fact that Packer ate his companions - the rest of the movie is pretty much all made up. The movie starts at Packer's trial, with the movie graphically illustrating the prosecutor's theory on how Packer ripped apart and ate his companions. "But that's not how it happened!" insists Packer, but no one believes him. However, reporter Polly Pry interviews Packer in his death-row jail cell to get his side of the events, leading to the flashback that takes up most of the running time. Like T.L.O.A.P., Packer was hired by prospectors wanting to get to the gold fields but all soon became lost and starving in the mountains. However, this version adds, among other things, Packer's strong interest in his horse Liane, an Indian tribe that can't hide it's amusement on the group's hopeless quest, a team of equally amused mountain men Packer's group keeps bumping into, and of course those song-and-dance numbers.

The songs are tolerable, not annoying but neither catchy or witty. Typical song lyrics include "The sky is blue / And all the leaves are green / My heart's as full as a baked potato / I think I know exactly what I mean / When I say it's a Shpadoinkle Day" and "There was nothing I could do / When I was on top of you" (the latter sung by Packer about his beloved horse Liane.) These songs do provide some amusement, but towards the end of the movie viewers will start to grow weary of each new number.

As for the rest of the movie, it's about as juvenile as a high school production, though my TV teacher never allowed our class to include four-letters words, whether they were used for laughs just by hearing them (like this movie) or not. Strangely, he didn't seem to mind any gore or quick flashes of (rear) nudity in our productions - what a message to give to young and impressionable people. If one of his classes handed in this production as an assignment, he would no doubt give it an "A", simply because it would be amazing for high school students. But the makers of Cannibal!, though not in the major leagues, were at least in the minors. Imagining myself as their instructor, I must reluctantly give them an "Incomplete" grade.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)
Check for availability on Amazon (Download)

See also: Shock Treatment, The Apple, Cinderella