Team America: World Police
directed by Trey Parker
(Paramount, 2004)

I was slightly disappointed the first time I saw this film -- probably because I was so hyped up about it, having heard so many people talk about how hilarious it was. My second time through it, though, everything clicked. Team America: World Police is juvenile and disgusting, yet sharply pointed satire that goes out of its way to be offensive -- in other words, it's hilarious, and yet more proof of Trey Parker's genius. Parker and partner Matt Stone do things no one else would ever dream of doing -- or even be allowed to do. It's a film I know I will enjoy watching time and time again for years to come.

Hilarity aside, the audacity of making such an elaborate film using puppets is almost mind-boggling. Parker and Stone probably had little idea of what they were getting into, yet they stayed the course, brought together a tremendous team of individuals who, as the special features make obvious, relished the chance to take the art of puppetry to new heights, and created something that is really quite amazing. It's uncanny how life-like these puppets are -- I daresay Alec Baldwin, for example, is much more wooden in real life than is his puppet in this film. These aren't just wooden characters dangling on strings; each puppet's head is filled with animatronics that control his/her expressions with uncanny precision. The puppet fights are hilarious, but nothing's funnier than watching Gary give "the signal" as his first mission with the elite American fighting force goes south.

As with everything Parker and Stone do, there's actually a point behind all of the humor. Though their detractors would never admit it, these guys actually do have a handle on what is going on in the world -- and within America. If you've ever seen South Park, you know how quickly they manage to exploit the big issues of the day. No one is safe from these guys' political humor, but the Left does tend to suffer the brunt of the satirical attack in this film. (Those who say Parker and Stone are suddenly outright conservatives have obviously forgotten their short-lived series That's My Bush -- which was the only unfunny thing they've ever done.) Team America itself takes America's military might to obvious extremes, as when they pretty much destroy Paris in order to stop WMD-toting terrorists (of course, no one seems to consider the fact that the terrorists would have destroyed Paris to an even greater extent themselves had their plan succeeded).

Alec Baldwin's ilk, though, suffers most because they have two Stone/Parker targets on their back. One, they are perceived as soporific liberals who would stop terrorism by sympathizing with the enemy and commiserating with their extreme anti-American views over tea and crumpets; two, they are actors, and I think Parker and Stone really mean it when they say they hate actors -- it's one of the reasons they chose to make this movie with puppets (plus, one of the original inspirations for the project was the idea of doing a parody of today's action films).

I don't think I need to describe the movie, really. Kim Jong-Il (even though he does sound a little too much like Eric Cartman, at times) is a great character, of course, but you probably know all about the film's story by now. It is true that Parker and Stone push the envelope (actually, they just tear it all apart and rush right on past it) at times -- especially in the puppet love scene and the vomiting scene -- probably just to prove how much they can get away with, but you just have to expect that sort of thing from these guys. It's one of the things that makes them Parker and Stone. Let's not forget the songs, either. From the heart-pumping theme song to Kim Jung-Il's loneliness lament, Team America: World Police features a great soundtrack (be sure to go all the way through the final credits in order to hear a final little snippet from Kim Jung-Il).

If you're easily offended, you'll probably be holding your nose higher and higher as you watch this film (even while those around you are bent over holding their stomachs with laughter) -- but that's OK because the rest of us need someone to hold our popcorn while we struggle to regain our breath.

by Daniel Jolley
10 December 2005

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