Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s irreverent musical, “The Book of Mormon,” is a record-breaking success on Broadway and on tour. In fact, Variety reports that “The Book of Mormon” recently broke the weekly sales record previously held by “Wicked” at Atlanta’s Fox Theater with a week ending at more than $2.8 million. With such critical and fiscal success surrounding their musical, will Trey Parker and Matt Stone choose to bring it to the big screen?
A History of Irreverence
“The Book of Mormon” is the story of two predictably nice Mormon missionaries sent to proselytize to a war-torn village in Uganda. The two main characters, Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham, are cheery but naïve missionaries unfamiliar with the brutal realities of life under a brutally violent despot in a countryside ravaged by poverty and AIDS. Though the play satirizes religion, it contains themes of faith and doubt and portrays its main characters as optimistic and good-intentioned, if a little sheltered. With script, music, and lyrics all written by Parker and Stone, the show is irreverent and entertaining, and is a huge hit with audiences from New York to London. In an interview with Vulture, Stone explained audiences relate to the show because, at it’s core, “Mormon” is the story of being young and leaving home for the first time. Of all the musicals in New York City, nothing has ever been as strange and crude on the Broadway stage.
“The Book of Mormon” seems to be a perfect property to adapt to film, and Parker and Stone are no strangers to irreverent musicals for the big and small screens. Their first big screen debut, “Cannibal: The Musical,” was written and directed by Parker in 1993 and stars both him and Stone. While somewhat sophomoric, “Cannibal” has several truly hilarious moments and a soundtrack reminiscent of musicals such as “Oklahoma.” An early attempt by Parker and Stone, Rotten Tomatoes aggregates its rating at 56 percent, though an overwhelming 82 percent of viewers liked it.
Parker and Stone’s previous musical success, “South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut,” was released in 1999 and follows the main characters of “South Park,” as the boys’ parents start a war with Canada over a flatulent film. With musical numbers such as “Hell isn’t Good” featuring James Hetfield of Metallica and “Eyes of a Child” with Michael McDonald, “Bigger, Longer and Uncut” displayed Stone and Parker’s love of splashy musical numbers and blasphemous humor. Their 2004 outing “Team America: World Police” took the brutalities of war and added puppets and song, following a team of marionette soldiers in a send-up of action films, terrorism and American exceptionalism. According to The Numbers, “Team America” raked in more than $50 million worldwide, though its humor failed to translate to dollar signs internationally.
A Film Behind “Book?”
“The Book of Mormon” may see the big screen sooner than expected. Stone and Parker recently announced the creation of their own film studio, Important Studios, that will collect revenue from both “South Park” and “The Book of Mormon.” Important Studios will allow Parker and Stone to produce television, theatre, and film projects with a massive budget. With more control over the creative elements and production of their products, Parker and Stone have discussed a “Book of Mormon” movie adaptation with the New York Times and voiced their excitement over the new direction in their careers as artists of comedy. Filmgoers haven’t flocked to musicals of a non-Disney variety in several decades, with rare exceptions. Could “The Book of Mormon” match the success of big screen titans such as “Les Miserables”? With Trey Parker and Matt Stone at the helm, anything seems possible.