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Team America: World Police
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2004

Format: Movie
By:   Trey Parker (director and puppet fondler) and Matt Stone (writer of puppet mayhem) and Pam Brady (co-writer of puppet mayhem)
Genre:   Comedy/Action (with puppets)
Released:   Released October 15, 2004 (by people, not puppets)
Review Date:   October 19, 2004
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

Let me say this first, succinctly and clearly. If the words "from the creators of South Park" make you wail in horror, groan, or shake your head in disgust, you are not going to like this film. If the thought of a three minute puppet sex scene and two minute puppet vomit scene makes you cringe instead of giggle, this is not your movie. However, if you are a fan of the type of sometimes crude humor created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, you're going to love this film.

For those who are into the style of satire done by Parker and Stone, Team America is, at various times, revolting, thrilling, daring, sweet, crude, and almost always funny. There is only one thing that the movie never is, and that's subtle. From Kim Jong-Il's accent to the swipes at "liberal" actors, lots (and lots) of gay jokes, the over the top action, and gut busting songs, the movie does just about everything as broad as possible. And part of that comes from the genre the movie is parodying: the over-the-top, Bruckheimer-style, rah-rah "top gun" action film.

Team America hits all the notes of the typical summer action blockbuster pretty much in order, but amplified and skewed by the boys. And done with puppets. Doing this type of action movie with puppets alone would make for the funny, as evidenced in the big puppet kung-fu throw-downs in two parts of the movie, but Stone and Parker toss in even more spoofs.

We meet Team America in an opening action scene that sets the tone for the whole move. Caricature French puppets in a caricature of Paris are witness as Team America arrives (in their three custom "Thunderbirds"-style vehicles) to arrest caricature terrorists as they exchange a weapon of mass destruction. During the ensuing mayhem the team kills the terrorists, captures the WMD, and saves Paris while simultaneously blowing up the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph, and the Louvre.

In the lead, we get the standard hotshot hero guy that is usually played by Tom Cruise. Instead of a hotshot pilot, hotshot driver, hotshot bartender (I never got that one either), or hotshot oil rigger, this movie has at its core Gary (Trey Parker), the hotshot actor. (As opposed to Gary, hotshot fanboy movie reviewer.) Gary is recruited from Broadway by the head of Team America, their leader Charlton Hest . . . er, Spotswoode.

Spotswoode explains that the team needs Gary to use his ACTING skills to infiltrate the terrorist network to find out where the WMDs are coming from. So they make him up to look like a terrorist, and take him off to Cairo to begin his mission to Save the World.

The team heads around the globe to stop the terrorists, blow up cities and save the day. We hit all the proper "action movie" notes. The difficult romance; the "I hate you, you hotshot" inter-team conflict; love triangles; the hero doubting himself which leads to the capture of the team; the training montage; team bonding; thrilling rescues; and the final confrontation. What's fun is how the guys manage to lampoon these tropes, while using puppets. I also really have to applaud the songs, from Team America's theme "America! (Filk) Yea!" to "You Need a Montage!" during the training scene. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the numbers nominated for a gold statue, like "Blame Canada" was for South Park: The Movie.

Now, there is going to be a lot said about the "politics" of the Team America. I'm not really going to get into this because we're a genre site, not a political one, and this movie is made with puppets. I really think that this was just an excuse for Matt and Trey to kill off some famous people, like they do in South Park just about every week. I was shocked, however, that they skipped Barbra Streisand. I guess after Mega-Streisand, they're leaving her alone. You can look for a deeper meaning, and it might be there, but I'm not going to bother.

As a comedy action spoof (with puppets), Team America is a success. I laughed through most of the movie. There were a few flat jokes, some that I thought went too far, and some where I thought they went for the too-obvious gag. But in the end, the movie made me laugh 90% of the time.

But again, if you don't like Matt and Trey's sense of humor or are sensitive to political lampooning (on either side), then give this movie a big pass.

RevSF contributor Gary Mitchel would do anything for America, he would do anything for America, oh he would do anything for America — but he won’t do that.

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