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‘South Park’ Review: Season 21 Finale Parodies ‘It’ and ‘Stranger Things’ in Funny But Toothless Ending


Another season of “South Park,” another finale with unresolved plot lines. After last year’s election upset through the season into turmoil, the 2017 run aimed to avoid similar complications by steering clear of predictions, overly serialized plots, and the president in general. No, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone weren’t ever going to leave Donald Trump out of “South Park,” but they weren’t going to make him the sole focus — not again.

In the finale, this decision felt more defeatist than freeing, as casually incorporated parodies of “It” and “Stranger Things” couldn’t overcome a final message that mirrored their premiere, minus the bite, and felt like a collective shrug: The Whites are America’s problem, and there’s no telling what they’ll do next.

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “South Park” Season 21, Episode 10, “Splatty Tomato.”]

Following last week’s Kyle-inspired nuking of Toronto, the Season 21 finale picked up with a country in disarray. The president is hiding out in South Park, scaring little kids by asking for information on his approval numbers, which are in the tank because of his ego-fueled attack on Canada.

The citizens agree they want the president out of town, except for one family: the Whites. The Whites feel like they’re being left behind by a society who doesn’t care about them anymore. They still support the president because “he’s still better than Hillary” and “at least he’s trying to save Christmas.”

With the adults unable to get anything done, it’s yet again up to the kids to save the day. Luckily, they know just what to do: “We all need to go out into the woods and save the town from evil set to some kick-ass ‘80s music,” Stan says. How do they know that’s the solution? Because they saw “It” and “Stranger Things,” of course. (Neither are prominently parodied in the episode, but the red balloon reading “Make America Great Again” is a pretty solid touch.)

After some dreadfully bad period music (aside from the ’85 Chicago Bears classic, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” which I get is still meant to be bad music), a hunt through the woods, and some soul-searching by Wendy, the president is captured and brought into town by Ike, the Canadian hero. Wendy wisely breaks up with Eric after coming to understand who she really is, but with the townsfolk distracted by Principal P.C. and Vice Principal Strong Woman hooking up, the Whites steal the sheriff’s gun and the president gets free.

“He’ll be even more desperate now. It’s going to be worse,” Randy says.

“We can’t destroy him, can we?”

“I don’t know. I guess it’s up to… the Whites,” Randy says.

South Park Season 21 Finale Episode 10 It Stranger Things

Ending on a line that starts with “I don’t know” is rarely a good sign for a series as outspoken as “South Park.” Its point is well taken: Common sense needs to get through to the white men and women who keep allowing Trump to let loose, whether it’s a manipulated fan base or a feeble Republican party.

“Bob, come on, you know it’s not safe to have him here,” Randy tells Mr. White. His tone is dejected, his voice tired from repeating the same thing over and over again. Nothing seems to get through to the Whites, and that’s certainly a relatable frustration, but it’s not scathing social commentary or cathartically satisfying comedy.

In the first episode, “South Park” took a strong stance shortly after a protester was killed in Charlottesville. It outlined how America harbors white supremacy; a difficult idea for a lot of people to wrap their heads around, but one thoroughly conveyed during the episode — as opposed to Episode 10. Why half of a divided country would continue to back the blubbering Cheeto-in-Chief is a less complex argument to make; this is a country where sides are drawn, no one wants to be wrong, and power is coveted more than principles. Of course people are still defending a powerful man, even when he could get us all nuked at any moment. He’s still the “better option” for some of them, no matter how crazy that sounds to a growing majority.

The only challenging idea brought to the finale was about victimhood, and that point became clouded by a lack of focus and a problematic C-plot. “I let being a victim become a way of life,” Wendy said, right before breaking up with Cartman. While her responsible decision to hold herself accountable was meant to be taken in stark contrast to the Whites’ utter refusal to back down from their perpetual claims of being forgotten, ignored, or mistreated, the denouncement of victimhood still felt poorly timed to current events.

Wednesday morning, victims of sexual harassment were celebrated as “The Silence Breakers” in Time’s “Person of the Year” issue. “South Park” isn’t blaming them by any means, but pointing out that playing the victim and being one is a fine line to walk and the episode stumbled a bit. Now might not be the time to talk about victims so much as it’s the time to point out that frustrated white voters are frustrated for the wrong reasons.

Adding further complications to the final point was Principal P.C. and Strong Woman’s coupling or, more accurately, the reaction to it. As soon as Strong Woman entered “South Park,” she felt like a ticking time bomb. Parker and Stone have been honest about how their show “marginalized” women in the past, so they weren’t going in blind. But Strong Woman’s biggest joke still played into a male perspective; she chided Principal P.C. for interrupting her; she embarrassed him in front of the students; she turned into his object of desire and — despite her early rejection — came to lust over him uncontrollably.

When the townsfolk found out, they couldn’t stop vomiting. The show’s point is clear: Yes, office romances happen, and yes, they’re unavoidable. But is anyone really overreacting to them? Is P.C. culture smothering relationships? To make fun of people being overcautious during a time when sexual harassment claims are flooding every industry seems poorly timed. Did anyone really need a reminder that sometimes love is pure, even at work? And did they need that reminder more than one about how men in power often take advantage of it?

One could argue the Principal and Vice Principal were also falsely embodying victims; that “South Park” was mocking their perceived need to hide something that could be cleared up with a few honest discussions. But even if that’s the intention, it isn’t exactly a vital cause.

Parker and Stone have always skewered everyone. They’ll go after the easy targets, like Trump, and the hard targets, like P.C. culture. Over 21 years, they’ve proven themselves incredibly smart and savvy satirists, and Season 21 had plenty of shining moments. (The premiere and “Hummels & Heroin” stand out.) Perhaps expecting answers to unanswerable questions is too much to ask from an adult cartoon, but it seems fair to expect more than a shrug.

Grade: B-

“South Park” Season 21 is streaming now on CC.com and Hulu.

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‘The Last Jedi’ Will Be the Biggest Movie of 2017, Even as It Leaves Some Records Untouched


The first shows for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” begin tonight, and there’s every expectation that is will be the biggest-opening, top-grossing domestic release of 2017. At a minimum, we’re looking at a $200 million opening, with $225 million very likely.

With strong holiday playtime following the first 10 days of release, a multiple of at least three times its opening is possible, which could propel to the domestic take to around $700 million.

Yes, it’s going to be huge — but there’s a few records it might not beat. Here (with adjusting numbers to 2017 values) are some comparable numbers that “Jedi” will easily best, and a few that seem unlikely.

Top domestic grosses of 2017: YES

“The Last Jedi” should find the opening numbers easy to beat, and it’s hard to imagine it won’t be the best-performing movie of the year.

Film Studio Opening Gross Domestic Total
Beauty and the Beast Disney $174.8 million $504 million
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 Disney $146.5 million $412.6 million
It Warner Bros. $123.4 million $389.8 million


Best opening weekends in the “Star Wars” franchise: MAYBE

The bigger opening numbers in recent years can be tied to more seats available, pre-buys, and overall moviegoing habits.

Title Year Opening Box Office
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 $254.5 million
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 2016 $157.6 million
Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith 2005  $151.1 million


Best domestic gross for the “Star Wars” franchise: MAYBE

This includes reissues. “Star Wars” is the #2 film of all time, while “The Force Awakens” is the biggest success in the last 20 years. To be as high as fifth on the all time “Star Wars” list, “The Last Jedi”  would need to do 78 percent of the total for “The Force Awakens,” and significantly better than “Rogue One.”

Title Year Total Box Office
Star Wars 1977 $1.591 billion
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 $965.5 million
The Empire Strikes Back 1980 $876.8 million
The Return of the Jedi 1983 $840.0 million
The Phantom Menace 1999  $757.4 million


“The Fate of the Furious”

Top international grosses for 2017: NO

The two most recent “Star Wars” films weren’t top among overseas release in their years. In 2015, “The Force Awakens” was second to “Furious 7,” though it did gross over $1 billion overseas. “Rogue One” was eighth best among 2016 releases, grossing $524 million. Expect “The Last Jedi” to gross somewhere in between, unlikely to be better than third best for the year.

Title Studio Total
The Fate of the Furious Universal $1.010 billion
Wolf Warrior 2 Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Co. $864.9 million
Despicable Me 3 Universal $767.8 million
Beauty and the Beast Disney $759.5 million
Pirates of the Caribbean:
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Disney  $622.3 million


Top worldwide grosses for 2017: YES

This looks entirely doable. “The Force Awakens” made over $2 billion, “Rogue One” a little over $1 billion; expect this to do more, both at home and overseas.

Title Studio Total
Beauty and the Beast Disney $1.264 billion
The Fate of the Furious Universal $1.236 billion
Despicable Me 3 20th Century Fox $1.033 billion
Spider-Man: Homecoming Sony $880.2 million
Wolf Warrior 2 Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Co.  $870.3 million


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