Team America: World Police (2004) Movie Review

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(Movie Review by Donnie Saxton) Ironically, 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 eligible.

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 Shadow”.

Trey Parker (director) / Pam Brady, Trey Parker, Matt Stone (screenplay)
CAST: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris, Maurice LaMarche


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