Farrellys’ “South Park” Smackdown
Is Cartman a crook?
Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the gross-out gurus behind Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary are accusing South Park masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone of ripping off a movie idea.
Per Daily Variety, the Farrellys claim a 2004 South Park episode, in which Cartman pretends to be mentally disabled to compete in the Special Olympics, blatantly copied The Ringer, the brother’s upcoming movie about, yes, a guy who feigns a mental disability to win the Special Olympics.
Parker and Stone’s story line pissed off the Farrellys and Ringer writer Ricky Blitt so much that it sparked ill will between the two comedy teams.
“When you think of a premise so radical it’s unmakable, you hang in for seven years to see it through, it is a shock to the system to have people on Websites saying, ‘You hack, you stole this from South Park,’ ” Blitt tells Variety. “I set this up so long before that episode was conceived. It is bad enough to have your idea taken: It’s 1,000 times worse when you are then accused of stealing.”
The Ringer, starring ex-Jackass Johnny Knoxville as the faux Special Olympian, is scheduled for release Dec. 23.
There’s been no mention of a lawsuit, but Peter Farrelly, who produces the film with his brother, believes the plot similarities weren’t an accident.
“There is no way those guys didn’t know we were making this very movie as they took it upon themselves to do that episode,” he tells Variety. “They know what they did and they know it was wrong. Period. These are guys I have always respected, but what they did was very creepy.”
Blitt says he had shopped his screenplay all over town, including to Parker and Stone, before the Farrellys and their Connundrum Entertainment snapped it up.
But veteran producer Bob Kosberg (Twelve Monkeys), who pitched The Ringer to the South Park brain trust, tells the trade he never actually spoke to Parker and Stone about the screenplay, and the pair themselves have denied ever hearing about the concept.
“I can totally see why Ricky would be bummed about people accusing him of stealing an idea he came up with himself,” Stone says in Variety. “But this is a matter of people having the same idea, and I assure you we weren’t aware of the movie when we did that episode. And I don’t agree with Peter’s point that you should back off if you have an idea and find someone else has it too.”
“It should be a race to the market,” he adds. “I don’t think that is all their movie has going for it Getting the Special Olympics to take part, now that is a cool thing.”
The Farrellys, who volunteer for Best Buddies, a mentoring program for people with mental retardation, wanted to make sure the film didn’t stigmatize the athletes and sought counsel from the Special Olympics. The brothers even went so far as giving the organization final script approval.
Parker and Stone’s take-no-prisoners comedy has targeted everything from the war in Iraq to The Passion of the Christ to Michael Jackson’s legal problems to a recent episode lampooning Tom Cruise’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology.
When discussing the origins of their puppet flick, Team America: World Police, Parker and Stone went on saying they had intended to use a purloined copy of The Day After Tomorrow script and shoot it word for word with puppets and release it the same day the live-action version. Their lawyers convinced them otherwise.
However, Parker and Stone are themselves involved with the disabled, financing and executive producing How’s Your News?, a series of documentaries featuring mentally challenged reporters interviewing high-profile celebs, politicians and regular folk.
Sensitive to the Farrellys’ accusations, the two maintain their innocence.
“It’s hard for Trey and I to hear them come down on us like we ripped off an idea,” Stone says in Variety. “I met Bob Farrelly once for about four minutes. I never met anybody else, neither has Trey, and we knew nothing about their movie. We thought of the idea for that episode early on, but we couldn’t make it for two or three seasons. When the show expanded, we were able to make it.
“I don’t think it means that much; if The Ringer is a good movie; it will do well. And I remember wanting to remake King Kong, 10 years ago. Does that mean I was ripped off? I wish wouldn’t attack us, and ‘creepy’ is kind of harsh.”
Parker and Stone just inked a three-year production deal with Paramount to write and direct movies. They’re signed to produce new episodes of South Park for Comedy Central through 2008.
The Farrellys, meanwhile, are attempting to stage their long-gestating update of The Three Stooges.
Farrellys’ “South Park” Smackdown