Mark Reviews Movies


2  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Trey Parker

Cast: The voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris

MPAA Rating:  (for graphic crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language - all involving puppets)

Running Time: 1:47

Release Date: 10/15/04

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Review by Mark Dujsik

The creators of "South Park" take on terrorism and mindless, big-budget action flicks, and just as you'd expect, they slaughter every sacred cow they come in contact with. Team America: World Police is sure to offend just about everyone, but there's something in the way Trey Parker and Matt Stone so blatantly twist our perceptions on current events that just has to be admired on a certain level. I just wonder how Parker and Stone would react to the famous question posed to Joseph McCarthy by Joseph Welch: "Have you no sense of decency, sir[s]?" Perhaps Parker would simply look him in the eyes and say, "Um, not really. Why?" Or Stone might say, "Yeah, hang on a second. I think it's right here in my pocket. Let me get it out for you" and then proceed to reach into his pocket and fumble around for a little bit, only to pull out his hand and flip him the bird. Or maybe they'd just stand there silent for four seconds until one of them let out a fart. No matter what the response to this random hypothetical situation, one thing's for certain: Parker and Stone aren't too concerned with decency here.

Team America is an international police force on the prowl for terrorists, and they'll stop at nothing to get the job done. After successfully stopping a group of terrorists in Paris and losing one of their own to said terrorists, the team is in need of a new member. Given the discreet nature of some of their work (the parts not involving blowing up the Eiffel Tower and causing it to collapse into the Arc de Triomphe), Team America's leader Spottswoode (voice of Daran Norris) has decided to attempt to recruit a popular Broadway actor named Gary Johnston (voice of Parker). Gary would use his acting abilities to infiltrate sensitive terrorists meetings and discover what nefarious plans they have in motion. Meanwhile, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il (voice of Parker) is hatching his own dastardly plan involving terrorists around the world and the Film Actors Guild (you decipher the acronym), who are disgusted with the way Team America is imposing itself on the world.

Have I mentioned this is all done with marionettes? Yes, those are puppets blowing up the Louvre and the Sphinx. Yes, those are puppets swearing with the gusto of Dick Cheney. Yes, those are puppets engaging in a sex scene that would make Bernardo Bertolucci blush (I exaggerate; he'd probably only raise an eyebrow). And it of course leads to one of the funniest MPAA reasonings for the R rating: "for graphic crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language all involving puppets." Does the fact that it all involves puppets make it more or less deserving of the rating? Anyway, it all does lead to a consistently on-target mocking of the modern action movie. From the testosterone-laden explosions and chases and gunfights to ridiculously cheesy scenes of romance and team bonding, the movie satirizes the blow-'em-to-hell xenophobia and the almost-too-masculine machismo we've come to expect (with a score by Harry Gregson-Williams to boot). Take a scene where the team is approaching Kim Jong Il's palace, only to be attacked by his henchmen by air and sea. Of course, such a fight isn't going to get in the way of the team bringing in personal feelings about each other in between explosions. Absurd? Yes. Familiar? Most definitely.

Parker and Stone are also prone to point out hypocrisy and more underhanded forms of manipulation throughout society. Gary is introduced as he stars in Lease, the Parker/Stone version of the musical Rent, in which the finale is a song called "Everyone Has AIDS," and everyone in the audience alternately sobs and dances to the beat. As for other musical numbers, Jong Il sings "I'm So Ronery" (yes, they did go there) and Team America's theme song is catchy, jingoistic, and crass. And you have to love a song about someone missing their love "like Michael Bay missed the mark in Pearl Harbor " (followed by a bender which leads to an extended vomiting scene, which is the movie's funniest). But the target of a lot of the movie's mockery is the activist Hollywood personality. With Alec Baldwin leading a group of stars to join in a peace rally with Jong Il, Michael Moore acting as a suicide bomber to attack Team America's headquarters at Mt. Rushmore, and Matt Damon seemingly only being capable of saying his own name in an exaggeratedly drawn out manner, something doesn't quite seem right here. After all, Parker and Stone spend much of the opening act of the movie subversively pointing out how much damage the US does in its affairs abroad.

The result seems almost as hypocritical as many of the movie's targets, which ultimately defeats the movie's intentions. I suppose one could find a different interpretation of Team America: World Police's point, but to do so, one would have to think about the movie's graphic analogy of the three types of people in the world in terms of one male organ, one female organ, and a certain place where the sun doesn't shine. If you really want to think about it, go ahead. For now, I get from the movie: Does the US inflict just as much (if not more) damage and lessen security in insuring safety across the world? Yes, and if you don't like it, move to Canada, hippie.

Copyright 2004 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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