ronically, just the other day I was asking
myself: why in the world hasn't anyone made a film exploring the
geopolitical realities of nuclear proliferation starring wooden marionettes?
Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the fire-breathing creators of "South
Park", answered my interrogatory with an exclamation point.
"Team America: World Police" should be called, "Team America!
World Police!" The exclamation points represent the middle fingers of
Stone and Parker affectionately directed at anyone whom they have ever met,
heard of, or stood in line with at a checkout.
As in "South Park", the
movie and the series, the creators have no particular blueprint for who ends
up reeking from inclusion in their mock fest. In Stone and Parker's
universe, everyone is up for grabs and no political or social group gets a
break. If there is a theme running through "Team America: World
Police" it's certainly not that liberals suck or conservatives suck;
it's more like, everyone sucks. Their approach is kind of refreshing because
it frees up the audience to laugh at whatever. We don't feel guilty for
singling anyone out when everyone is scorned equally, and every group is
sunk into the same morass of ridicule and deprecation (or defecation,
depending upon the scene).
The bulk of the lampooning goes after three distinct groups: the Bush
administration, terrorists, and outspoken Hollywood notables. Team America
is an over-the-top, arrogant, anti-terrorism force based inside Mount
Rushmore. Basically, the actions of Team America mock the Bushie's
propensity to take unilateral action against perceived terrorism threats
upon less than perfect information. Squaring nicely with the theme is a
supercomputer named "intelligence" from which Team America takes
most of their cues for military action against terrorism and ridding the
world of WMD's. "Intelligence", it turns out, often miscalculates
the advice he gives out and well...you get the idea.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: throughout the movie
Team America goes about "saving" foreign countries from
terrorism with reckless abandon, destroying much in the process and
perceiving gratitude where none exists after the dust settles. While
foiling terrorists in Paris, Team America manages to topple the Eiffel
Tower onto the Arc de Triomphe and blow up the Lourve in about 3 seconds.
Team America's main objective is to thwart a partnership between
terrorists and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il who is hell bent on,
you guessed it, destroying the world.
Outspoken actors like Sean Penn and Tim Robbins form an association in
opposition to Team America called the Film Actors Guild or F.A.G (pun
intended). Alec Baldwin leads this rabble and eventually agrees to an
ill-advised partnership with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.
Outspoken Liberal celebrities get some of the harshest treatment by the
film, mostly because they are identified specifically rather than
metaphorically. I counted the appearance of no fewer than 20 individual
actors in marionette form who were eventually dismembered, shot to death,
set on fire, or eaten by house cats. Apparently the only qualification for
inclusion is to be on record expressing discontent with American foreign
policy or to make terrible movies. Basically, anyone in Hollywood is
The creators of "Team America" casts a broad net of insults lest
anyone feel left out. Many groups besides the three aforementioned become
fodder for offensive jabs. Homosexuals, for instance, are the butt of many
a butt joke and various other gratuitous put-downs. Michael Moore is
ridiculed as a face stuffing, suicidal maniac. Arabs, Asians, and Aids
victims don't fair so well either.
"Team America" is funny and offensive but far less funny and
offensive than Stone and Parker's first film, "South
Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut". Like so many South Park
episodes, Stone and Parker slip in (twice) a parable revealing a
philosophical argument that they may or may not really believe. With these
two, one can never tell because they are always joking. Even when a
character looks at you with a straight face and says something profound,
albeit laced with profanity, you are usually waiting for the other shoe to
drop right on your head. Watching the marionettes have sex is worth the
price of a ticket all by itself, but hard-core Stone and Parker fans will
probably wish they had stayed home and watched South Park reruns for free.
I will confess that I laughed out loud several times, mostly at the
merciless ribbing of Hollywood. At one point Kim Jong Il refers to Baldwin
as the "true ugliness of human nature." It's a very funny line,
but I don't think it's true -- at least not until Baldwin decides to make
a sequel to "The