- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 14, 2004

L eave it to the bad boys behind “South Park” to make the fairest, most balanced political film of this bruising election year.

“Team America: World Police” is as crude and rude as any Trey Parker and Matt Stone collaboration.

The pair crank out some of the sharpest satire on TV via their grade school antiheroes, but they’re incapable of suppressing their own inner 15-year old brats.

So we get vomit gags, barrels of harsh language and an extended lovemaking sequence featuring erotically posed marionettes — the duo have dropped “South Park’s” construction paper medium for “Thunderbirds”-style puppetry.

It’s the price we pay for watching all sides of the political debate take their lumps.

“Team America” skewers the Hollywood left, macho U.S. military types — even the patriotic country crooners who write songs meant to boost our morale during wartime.

The juiciest target, beyond a suicide-bombing Michael Moore, is the bloated Hollywood action epic.

Who cares if the famous Hollywood liberals satirized here — Sean Penn, Danny Glover and Tim Robbins, to name just a few — can take a joke? The ones who should really be calling their lawyers are folks like uber-action film producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay, whose 2001 film “Pearl Harbor” receives a whole musical number dedicated to its grand ineptitude.

The movie opens in an idyllic Paris of sidewalk cafes, street mimes, painters working en plein air — and a rogue group of Arab terrorists walking the streets with a blinking suitcase. Enter Team America, terrorist fighters who barge into any country they please to wipe out Islamic militants. Who cares if their firepower brings down the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre? They get the job done.

The team revels in its latest victory, but soon learns a worldwide terrorist plot is being hatched by North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, a deliciously comic marionette who sounds suspiciously like Cartman.

To break the case, the team convinces a Broadway actor to infiltrate the terrorist network posed as an Islamic thug to find out when the strikes could occur.

The actor-turned-secret-agent’s “disguise” has to be the most insensitive — and maybe the funniest — ever to emerge from wardrobe in Hollywood history.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood community is up in arms over Team America’s techniques. Led by an Alec Baldwin puppet, the Blame Team America crowd agrees to attend a “peace” summit thrown by the North Korean leader meant to distract the world from his evil plans.

“Team America” gets enormous comic mileage out of the marionettes themselves, particularly their inability to so much as walk in a convincing fashion. It’s a novelty that should wear thin by the final reel but is kept fresh by a steady supply of visual jokes.

Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone often rush production on their “South Park” installments to keep them as “of the moment” as possible. The same is supposedly true here, but some of the set design work says otherwise. Team America’s Mount Rushmore base alone is a visual feast.

Those easily offended will find dozens of moments to write their local newspaper or congressman about. Kim Jong Il speaks — and sings a tenderly self-pitying ballad — in a stereotypical Asian accent, and the Broadway show depicted here is a riff on “Rent” dubbed “Lease.”

“C’mon, everybody, we have quilting to do,” the performers sing in the number “Everyone Has AIDS.”

That said, many of the most offensive moments in the film also happen to be brilliant punch lines to quite clever jokes — the vomit scene and the Islamic “disguise” cited above are two examples — that are told without a word.

If you can stomach that style of scathingly anarchic humor, “Team America: World Police” could be the funniest, fiercest movie this season.


TITLE: “Team America: World Police”

RATING: R (Strong language, imitations of action movie violence, sexual situations involving marionettes)

CREDITS: Directed by Trey Parker. Written by Mr. Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady. Produced by Scott Rudin, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone.

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

WEB SITE: www.teamamerica.com


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