The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Cannibal! The Musical’

Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Cannibal! The Musical.”

The info:

The Movie: “Cannibal! The Musical”

Starring: Trey Parker, Dian Bachar, Stephen Blackpool, Matt Stone

Director: Trey Parker

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) The sole survivor of an ill-fated mining expedition tells how his taste for gold was replaced by that of human flesh.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63 percent

Our take:

Brown: Thank God we’re finally out of Forks, Washington.

Last time, we concluded the “Twilight” saga with “Breaking Dawn  – Part Deux” and no longer can Froemming try to torment me (and himself, really) with sparkly “vegetarian” vampires, vacant female leads and wolves who lust after infants. 

Since these vampires will never quench my bloodlust, why not begin our post-”Twilight” existence with a story of a real-life cannibal? 

While we’re at it, why not do it with a movie brought to us from the guys from “South Park” and “BASEketball” that’s one part “Friday the 13th” and one part “Oklahoma!”

I will say on viewing this movie for the first time, “Cannibal! The Musical “ made me feel extremely lazy. 

Trey Parker, Matt Stone and co. raised $125,000 and shot this movie during their time at the University of Colorado. Some of the classmates who took part in this failed the film history class they were all taking.

Meanwhile, all Froemming and I did in college was make fun of each other in our college newspaper and get a drink named after me at the bar we frequented. 

Froemming, my heart’s as full as a baked potato, so why don’t you give us your initial thoughts?

Froemming: Anytime I get a chance to watch this movie, it is a shpadoinkle day.

I love this movie. I saw it on VHS after Troma re-released it after the success of “South Park” and not a year goes by when I don’t silently chuckle at the memory of Swan getting shot dead as he starts to sing “Let’s Build a Snowman.”

Hell, the commentary on the DVD is classic, as it is the cast getting hammered as they watch the movie. This is why I still collect physical media, because I rarely see commentary tracks on streaming.

So yeah, I really love this movie. It is almost on the level of Monty Python silly, with catchy songs and some brutal murders. And a character who almost loves his horse more than Travolta loved that mechanical bull

Brown, as I cheerily build a snowman and somehow make tap dance noises in the snow, why don’t you kick this off?

Brown: We start off with opening text, which is a trope the “South Park” guys seem to enjoy. 

We start off with some tension-filled music and a gorefest shot in an almost dream-like way in the snow. Here, a dark-haired man is slaughtering people in the snow. For a movie with a $100,000+ budget, the effects are really (REDACTED) good. There’s throat splitting and a really gruesome moment where a dude gets his jaw ripped out. All we needed is something getting their throat ripped out like “Road House.”

Turns out, this is what a prosecutor is describing in detail during the 1883 trial of miner Alferd Packer (Parker). Packer is accused of killing and eating the group of men he helped try to navigate through the Rockies from Utah to Colorado. 

But, as Packer utters in front of the court that wants his blood: “That’s not the way it happened.”

Two interesting notes I learned from the Cinema Snob’s review of this movie: 1. The courthouse this was shot in was the same courthouse in Lake City, Colorado that the real-life Alferd Packer was tried in. 2. The judge building a house of cards was played by Trey Parker’s dad, Randy. 

Froemming: Let’s also point out the DNA of a lot of Parker and Stone’s projects are here. Mocking Mormons, Colorado being a big influence/location and hell at one point we hear what sounds like Eric Cartman singing a song. This and “Orgazmo” are really solid comedies. 

Now, there is a journalist at the hearing named Polly Pry who is covering the trial for the Denver Post. She wants to interview Packer to get his side of things, and she gets her chance with some advice to ask him about Liane.

Liane is also the name of a woman who cheated on Parker before their marriage, so this gag is a pretty solid (SHPADOINKLE) you to her.

Brown: I get that journalistic ethics were different in the 1800s, so I’ll forgive the activism role that Polly Pry does on behalf of Packer during this movie. 

But Polly Pry… she’s absolutely one of those women who would have thrown themselves at Charles Manson when he was alive. There wasn’t a romantic connection between the real-life Packer and Pry, but in a musical, who the (SHPADOINKLE) cares?

So Packer starts telling his tale, which began on one fine Shpadoinkle Day.

Ten years in the past, Packer and his horse Liane come across a group of miners and mormons in Utah that are debating on going to Breckenridge, Colorado on the hopes of striking gold.

One of the Utah miners is one of my favorite supporting characters in any movie: that little bitch Squeak Scolari. 

Froemming: I think you mean Choda Boy.

Brown: … I never saw “Orgazmo.”

Froemming: One day we will review it. 

Anyway, let’s meet our gang of miners:

  1. Shannon Wilson Bell, who wants to start a mormon church.
  2. James Humphrey, which is basically an early sketch of Kyle from “South Park” and played by Matt Stone.
  3. Frank Miller, who is doomed to sit in timeout for much of this trip.
  4. George Noon, that little bitch we just discussed.
  5. Israel Swan, whose toxic positivity and love for building snowmen will be his downfall.

Now, they were originally going to be led to the Colorado territory by Lucky Larry, who was tragically cut down in his prime by lightning. So they need a new guide to take them.

Enter Alfred Packer. Who gets the job because he has been to Colorado once. 

Brown: I’d say Humphrey is Cousin Kyle from “South Park” as opposed to the Kyle that most everyone else knows. Plus, I have no (SHPADOINKLE) idea what accent Matt Stone is going with. 

Packer is talked into being their guide to the Colorado Territory and claims that it’ll only be a three-week journey. 

… We fast-forward four weeks later and they’re still in (SHPADOINKLE) Utah, getting supplies. They are all as doomed as most “Oregon Trail” games. 

And the omens are not in the travelers’ favor, with a black cat crossing their path and an old man telling them they’re all doomed when they go to the mountains. 

Froemming: 

Brown: Which…. Yeah, they’re absolutely doomed. I don’t know how long these miners have been in Utah, but they have to know that traveling through the Rockies in January is a (SHPADOINKLE) stupid idea. But, they think they need to go now since by the time spring comes, the gold rush could be over. 

Sometimes, it’s just better to accept your fate as dirt farmers or whatever else they’d be doing. But there’s mormon churches and butcher shops to build. And in the case of Noon, there’s virginity to lose. 

People in Breckenridge will be psyched out when they find out their sister is going out with SQUEAK!

Froemming: Well, they make it to Provo, where they can at least get some supplies. Also, I love they think they can make it to Colorado in three weeks on foot. 

While shopping for supplies (and fudge for perhaps one of the dumbest/lamest joke payoffs in the history of cinema) some trappers take a liking to Liane, who they claim is a trapper horse. These trappers also look like amature wrestlers, which made me giggle. These guys will be our (kinda) villains throughout the movie. They, too, are heading to Colorado and think very low of miners. The miners think the trappers are gross, but in the end, which group had food that wasn’t members of their own party? Yeah, that’s right. They sure are dicks, but they didn’t turn to cannibalism, did they?

Brown: After one of their first nights on the way to Colorado, Packer wakes up and Liane has gone missing. The rest of the group wants to go, and Packer reluctantly follows. He’s convinced that the trappers stole Liane in the dead of night so instead of going toward Breckenridge, Packer has the idea to go to Saguache, a town south of Breckenridge where the trappers are headed. 

On their path to Colorado, the group hits a snag when Bell gets his leg caught in a bear trap. 

After getting Bell free (though wounded), it doesn’t get any better when the group gets caught up in the Green River. 

Hey, I get it. It was always hard deciding whether or not to ford the river in “Oregon Trail.”

As the group has to *checks notes* get naked and sleep together after getting all their clothes wet, we see a crestfallen Packer sing longingly for Liane. 

I (SHPADOINKLE) love the music in this movie. The comic music here is done as well as the tracks in “Walk Hard.”

Froemming: Oh yeah. I also love it sounds like an ’80s power ballad, which makes zero sense. Trey Parker is brilliant with writing catchy songs.

Anyway, Packer — who said the Green River was the only big river they needed to worry about — has the crew pissed at him when they come across the Colorado River, soaking them once again. I love just how angry Frank gets the whole time and they keep putting him in time out to cool off. Which is explained by Swan like he is their HR representative on this journey. 

Well, things take another turn when our heroes come across Nihonjin Indian tribe, which is surreal/racist since it is Japanese folks pretending to be Native Americans. Hell, one of the teepees has the Japanese flag on it. The gang are just as suspicious of this as the viewer is, as they keep asking what tribe they are. 

I am not sure if this is a commentary on how Italians used to play Native Americans in movies or just a very strange joke. Maybe it is two things?

This bit felt like it would have been in a Monty Python movie. 

Brown: It goes without saying that this (SHPADOINKLE) wouldn’t slide today. But, what can we expect from the “South Park” guys that made an entire episode on that show on Japanese whaling?

The chief of the tribe advises the group that there’s a winter storm in the mountains and they’re willing to let them stay with the tribe and wait things out. Which yeah, considering that Packer clearly has no (SHPADOINKLE) idea what he’s doing, that seems like a good idea. 

Hell, Noon is fine with the idea after he has a love-at-first-sight moment with a woman in the tribe. The way they cut the conversation between Noon and the woman had me in stitches because, well, that’s how Froemming and I are around women. 

With all that said, Packer doesn’t want to wait around after the group has another run-in with the trappers.

Froemming: Well, they have Liane’s feed bag, so Packer thinks they stole her. They claim they just found it, and we get some back-and-forth here until we get Frenchy obviously lip syncing Parker’s vocals on “The Trapper Song.”

Which I think is an obvious nod to “The Lumberjack Song.

Brown: The movie did lose me for a second when the trappers and travelers argue over musical terminology. I took choir in high school, but I failed every test where we had to recognize and name things you’d see in sheet music. Combined with my failed attempt to play bass guitar, clearly my brain doesn’t work at a musical frequency. 

Froemming: I don’t understand what they were talking about, but I did enjoy the fact these folks out in the wild are arguing over musical theory.

Well, we cut back to the present, as Packer is brought back to court to find out he has been sentenced to death by hanging, and the people there are way too happy about it. After, Polly ponders the case and what she has heard so far and breaks into song about her attraction to Packer. Best part is the guy awkwardly on the stairs hovering by her as she sings.

Brown: The next day, Packer’s story continues. 

Finding out that the trappers already left, Packer and co. are ready to get back on the trail, too. The chief again advises against this due to A. the winter weather and B. a cyclops that (apparently) occupies the mountains. 

… Because why shouldn’t a pilgrimage involve a cyclops? 

The chief, trying to make sure these men don’t die, advises them to follow the river east. Trudging through the rocky terrain, the group gets furious when they suspect that Packer’s motivation is to find the trappers and, hopefully, Liane. To make matters worse, Bell’s bear trap wound is starting to fester and turn gangrene.

… And then the cyclops shows up and grosses me the (SHPADOINKLE) out.

Froemming: Oh yeah, puss flies out of his eye onto them like watermelon on a crowd at a Gallagher show. Then they find out that the cyclops is a real Southern Man so they fake the worst southern accents one could imagine to trick the guy. He catches on when they can’t finish “Dixie,” so he turns on them. Only for them to escape into the cold once again.

At this point, morale is at an all-time low for our adventurers. And what one earth could cheer them up?

Brown: If I ever made a snowman, Froemming would absolutely take a pickaxe to it just like Miller. 

In the dead of winter, the group is in dire straits. They’re out of food and have to eat their own shoes to fill their empty stomachs.

And the next day, when Swan wants to build another snowman, Bell takes out a pistol and splatters the man’s brains all over the fresh snow. 

… Seems like an overreaction. I’ve never seen a man go through that much pain with show tunes since Sideshow Bob followed the Simpsons to Terror Lake. 

With no other options and death a certainty, the group looks over at Swan’s body and decide to go full Donner… except the butt. They won’t eat the butt.

Froemming: I am honestly surprised you and I never had this conversation:

Everyone is diggin in. Packer takes a bite and throws up right away. I love how Humphrey is grossed out by some puke getting on his pants as he is eating a human foot. So, they have passed a point of no return. Also, I wonder if they get addicted to human meat like Dee and Charlie.

Brown: I also really like how the movie revisits older songs from the movie, but makes them more and more dire to sell the desperation. 

Also, Packer has what I can only describe as a “Gutterballs”-like ballet nightmare sequence about Liane and the trapper. I would have love to hear something like Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, but I feel like the licensing would be more than this entire movie’s budget. 

With more talk of sacrifice and cannibalism, Packer offers to go up the mountain for a scouting trip. 

When he comes back, the campsite is a massacre. As Packer surveys the scene, the only one left is Bell, who has killed and cannibalized everyone else while Packer was gone.

Packer and Bell battle at the campsite, which Packer wins after putting a cleaver through one side of Bell’s face, followed by an arrow through the other eye. 

And then the scene just keeps going as Bell keeps reviving like he’s (SHPADOINKLE) Jason Vorhees. I wish I could find a clip because it’s (SHPADOINKLE) hilarious. It’s basically the same joke set-up as Sideshow Bob and the rakes. 

Froemming: It also reminded me of this.

Dude just keeps popping back up. I love how Packer is weary of turning his back on him, so he keeps doing double takes and the score goes along with him. 

Well, Packer makes it through the winter on the meat of his fallen comrades and makes it to Saguache, where he lies to everyone and says he lost his crew. And after the sheriff asks him to help others find these guys, he runs into his old flame: Liane. Who is now letting Frenchy ride her. Packer has been betrayed by the love(?) of his life. 

Drowning his sorrows at the tavern, the sheriff drunkenly stumbles in to arrest him. The bodies have been found and parts have been eaten. So what happens?

Everyone in the bar kicks the (SHPADOINKLE) out of Packer! And things only get worse when the trappers show up and get in on the action. 

Packer, remembering his martial arts lessons he learned from the Japanese Native Americans, is able to pound Frenchy’s balls so much he forever speaks in a high-pitched voice.

He high-tails it as the patrons give chase. Where does he end up?

Brown: Less flattering portrayal of Wyoming: This movie or “SLC Punk?”

Froemming: Wyoming is where Dick Cheney lives. I think he gave it a worse image than both these movies.

Brown: However, Packer is stopped before he can make it to Wyoming. And, he is convicted and sentenced to hang until he’s dead, dead, dead (which is close to the actual phrasing of the real-life Packer’s sentencing). 

The town, they’re elated by the news and break out into choreographed song and dance. 

This has been stuck in my head for a few days now. 

In more future “South Park” seeds being planted, when they cut to the puppets, it absolutely sounds like Mr. Garrison’s voice. 

I love this track, just for the fourth-wall breaking and referring to it like we’re watching a stage show. 

Packer gives his last words and he’s about to swing from the gallows before Polly Pry shows up with a stay of execution from the Colorado governor. It states that Packer could not be convinced of a state crime since Colorado wasn’t a state when all the cannibalism happened. 

That’s not enough for the trappers and the bloodthirsty crowd. Cabazon, the main trapper, trips the gallows and sends Packer hanging. But Packer is saved by a katana-wielding Native American because why the (SHPADOINKLE) not?

Froemming: Not only does the chief save his life, he also brought Liane. Though after she doesn’t come to Packer when he asks it to like she is a puppy, he says he doesn’t want her. And we see the chief walk off-screen with his katana. As Polly and Packer announce their feelings for one another, we hear the horse off-screen being slaughtered. Which just is hilariously awful. 

Our two love birds kiss and the movie almost ends. We get a reprise of Bell — still having his eye-holes filled with weaponry and the pick ax in his chest. They scream and we cut to the end of the film. 

Brown: I want the still painting of that jump scare framed on my wall in my apartment. 

Also, it’s good to know Packer got to the same place with Liane that Stan got with Wendy. 

Froemming, let’s hang this bastard and get to recommendations. 

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Brown: Yes. This was one of my favorite movies that we’ve reviewed. It’s the perfect kind of stupid I’ve come to expect from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. 

Froemming: Oh, this is a classic. Absolutely I will recommend it! 

Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN

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