Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Graphic Crude and Sexual Humor, Violent Images and Strong Language -all involving Puppets
Directed by: Trey Parker
Written by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone & Pam Brady
Voices of: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris & Phil Hendrie
With the recent fiasco over THE INTERVIEW, it seems appropriate to review the most crude, darkly hilarious and brilliant example of freedom of speech ever constructed in the Hollywood system. In 2004, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of SOUTH PARK) delivered the most outlandish comedy that was ever graced with a glorious nationwide theatrical release. Though it’s not a conventional masterpiece or classic, TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE delivers on the levels of offensive humor and absurdity that anyone familiar with this comedic duo should come to expect. TEAM AMERICA ridicules everyone (regardless of nationality or political beliefs) as well as riffing on Michael Bay blockbusters at the same time. It’s ludicrous and ludicrously entertaining!
Gary Johnston is a simple, naïve Broadway actor. After his latest performance of LEASE: THE MUSICAL, Gary is recruited by the underground police force known as Team America. This group is dedicated to taking out all terrorist groups across the globe, but has caused a stir among outspoken celebrities (particularly, the Film Actors Gild a.k.a. F.A.G.) and the general public. However, Team America is needed now more than ever as Kim Jong-Il is springing forth a master plan that could mean the end of the world. It’s up to Gary and the other Team America members to stop to Kim’s plan, but can they work as a team long enough to do so?
There are obvious shots taken at various nationalities and political views, but TEAM AMERICA simultaneously mocks big budget action films by including such self-aware clichés as montages, characters who are only identifiable by their jobs, and explosions galore. The animation (puppets in hand-crafted environments) is legitimately great. Parker and Stone were apparently sticklers for every detail looking as realistic as it possibly could. I’m sure this was a pain in the ass during the filming process, but the results are fantastic. Big laughs come in apparent restrictions of using puppets for certain scenes. There are hand-to-hand combat moments and a quick dance scene, but the unforgettable piece is in an exaggerated sex scene that has now become infamous. Pushing the boundaries (apparently, the film received an NC-17 multiple times before being edited to an R) in this raunchy joke results in a sequence that has to be seen to be believed and will haunt your mind with puppets simulating various sex positions for the rest of your life.
Though the Team America members are entertaining in their individual ways, the villains are where this movie broke me into laughing so hard that I was crying. Opening with an introductory action scene that features the most stereotypical middle-eastern terrorists imaginable (complete with obvious villain music), these bearded maniacs from Derkaderkastan only speak a handful of words (Derkaderka, Muhammad, jihad, and Allah) that are combined in various ways for their conversations. That cracks me up. It’s childish, but I laughed loudly during those scenes. Then there’s the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), which is pretty much just an excuse for Matt and Trey to make fun of outspoken celebrity types (including Sean Penn, who wrote them an angry letter about his inclusion in the film). Finally, there’s Kim Jong-Il, who’s fuelled by a little-man complex and speaks Engrish. The script seems to give him as many words with the letter L as possible so he can mispronounce them. All of these are juvenile jokes, but it works masterfully well in the context of the movie.
The film may have a steady fire of witty dialogue, offensive jabs at just about everyone, over-the-top violence, and ridiculously graphic sex jokes, but the finale is where TEAM AMERICA really excels. While Matt Stone and Trey Parker are hilarious guys and construct the best satire around, they sometimes have a problem in sticking the landing. This was probably most apparent in the conclusion of SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT where it almost felt like they ran dry of creative ideas and took an easy way out. That’s not at all the case in TEAM AMERICA as the final third is gloriously hilarious and insane. The entire movie is crude, rude and lewd, but it’s unabashedly so and made specifically for the crowd that loves Parker and Stone’s nasty (almost always on point) sense of humor.
TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE is one of the best comedies to come out of the new millennium. I’m going that far in my praise of this film. It’s absolutely ridiculous and revels in it. The animation is great on its own merits, but made even better with the use of violence, gore (the last act really does get crazy in that department) and sex (in a scene you’re not likely to ever forget). TEAM AMERICA is so hilarious that you might have to fight away tears from laughing too hard or pause the movie to catch your breath. It’s not considered a masterpiece of cinema or a fantastic work of art, but this film is a classic in its own sense. America, fuck yeah!