South Park: The Passion of the Jew appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Folks who’ve watched other Park DVDs will know what to expect here, for the visuals looked very similar to those found on other releases.
Sharpness appeared strong. Occasional bouts of light softness showed up, but these seemed modest, especially compared to earlier seasons. Overall, the shows remained pretty concise and accurate. Shimmering was minimal, and jagged edges - a consistent concern in the past - were fairly minor. Curved lines still looked a bit rough, but not as much as during prior shows. No issues with source defects occurred.
Colors also demonstrated fairly good delineation. The tones mostly seemed pretty clear and vivid, and they didn’t suffer from significant signs of noise or bleeding. They were acceptably lively. Black levels tended to be somewhat drab and gray, and shadow detail usually looked slightly too dark, but not terribly so. This was a good representation of South Park and offered the show about as positively as possible.
As for the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of South Park, “Passion” also greatly resembled the audio heard in prior releases. The soundfield offered a modest spread to the mix. Most of the material stayed within the front spectrum, where I heard mild use of directional effects and some decent stereo music. Vocals seemed to stay in the center. Audio moved adequately across channels as well, though there's not a great deal of panning or directional sound apparent. The surrounds mainly added some light ambience that reinforced the music and effects; it gave me a decent impression but didn't contribute much to the experience.
Audio quality appeared good but unspectacular. Speech sounded natural and distinct, and the lines blended well with the action. Only a smidgen of edginess cropped up, as the lines usually were without defects. Effects were clean and acceptably accurate, and music seemed clear and smooth with moderate but decent bass heard at times. South Park presented a bland but decent auditory experience as a whole.
For extras, Jew tosses in two bonus episodes. First we find “Christian Hard Rock” (aired 10/29/03): “When the other boys kick Cartman out of their band, he pulls his own group together to make music for Jesus. While Cartman’s ‘Faith + 1’ rockets to the top of the Christian charts, Stan, Kyle and Kenny are arrested for downloading music from the Internet.”
Christian rock doesn’t exactly offer a challenging target, but it does suck, so I’m happy to see it spoofed. “Rock” gives it a good going over and tosses in plenty of funny and clever moments. The downloading side works well too, and they both make this a solid episode.
In addition, we locate “Red Hot Catholic Love” (aired 7/3/02): “When the Catholic Church sex scandal negatively impacts church attendance in South Park, Priest Maxi travels to Rome to confront religious leaders about a solution. After intensive counseling about the issue, the boys are still confused. Cartman distracts everyone when he pulls off what was believed to be scientifically impossible.”
The last part offers the best elements of “Love”. Cartman theorizes that if you put food in your mouth and crap out of your boot, then logically if you put food in your butt, you should crap out of your mouth. That’s a hilarious concept, and the way the show follows it works even better.
Otherwise, “Love” is a pretty average episode. The priests offer an easy target, and while the show provides some funny shots - the presence of aliens at the Roman convention proves surprising and amusing, and one surreal segment puts Maxi into the Vatican catacombs ala the old “Pitfall” videogame - but otherwise those parts of the program are lackluster. Still, the poop-related part of the show makes it good.
The DVD opens with some Previews. These tout South Park Season Four, Reno 911, the Roast of Denis Leary Uncensored, and Crank Yankers Season One.
Give South Park credit for timeliness with “The Passion of the Jew” - and Paramount capitalizes on this with a DVD release date that coincides with The Passion of the Christ. Unfortunately, the episode itself falls short of its mark, as it seems uninspired and obvious much of the time. The DVD presents good picture plus decent sound and two entertaining bonus episodes as extras.
The latter are significantly better than “Passion” itself, which makes the DVD an odd proposition. I like those shows, but I find it tough to recommend the DVD. It comes with a list price of almost $20, which seems awfully steep for three episodes. Most fans will be better off just waiting for the shows to pop up via their respective season sets.