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.