First, a confession: I don’t care for most cartoons. They fall into one of two categories: kiddie crap, like ABC’s Disney block (The Mighty Ducks, etc.), or so-called adult animation, which is said to be going through a golden age. I don’t buy it. I know I’m in danger of having my critic’s license revoked for writing this, but I don’t find The Simpsons or King of the Hill funny.

Two animated series about kids — South Park, which is aimed at adults, and Rugrats, targeted at tots illustrate this demographic duality vividly. Comedy Central isn’t joking when it says South Park is for mature audiences. It’s the story of four Colorado third graders who call one another unprintable names, punt a baby, and fart fire (after one is anally probed by aliens).

If only the kids’ jokes were as fresh as their mouths. Sure, it was hilarious when the Bad News Bears cursed like sailors, but that was two decades ago. Equally out-of-date are this show’s stabs at satire: A gun nut stares into a mirror and asks ”You talkin’ to me?” in the umpteen-millionth parody of Taxi Driver. What’s next — a timely send-up of Smokey and the Bandit?

It might help if the South Park kids had personalities, but they’re as one-dimensional as the show’s cut-and-paste animation. Cartman is the fat kid (he’s subjected to limp putdowns like ”You’re such a fatass, when you walk down the street, people go, ‘God damn, that’s a big fat ass!’ ”). Kenny is so tightly wrapped up in his parka, you can’t understand a word he says (in one running gag, Kenny is killed in a horrific way each week). The other two kids, Stan and Kyle, seem indistinguishable — save for Stan’s tendency to vomit when girls talk to him. C

South Park
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