By Vic Holtreman
The short version: An extremely rude and crude satire of action movies and our post 9/11 world that is effective and sometimes funny, but uneven overall.
Team America is most certainly not for everyone... it's rude, crude and foul. It definitely earns it's R rating due to dialogue and a puppet love scene that will leave you blinking hard to make sure your eyes are really conveying to your brain what it thinks it's seeing. If explicit and foul language offend you, do not go see this film, as you will not be amused.
The premise is that America has a special police force that does not recognize international boundaries when it comes to going after terrorists. The film opens with a typical day in downtown Paris (3,628 miles from America, the center of the universe), when suddenly a bunch of Middle Eastern terrorists are seen milling about, one of which is carrying a briefcase with a blinking light. There's no subtlety here: Although the terrorists are in Paris, they are wearing the typical desert-type clothes we've come to associate with them, and they look as dirty and scruffy as they would holed up in the mountains of Afghanistan.
In flies "Team America" by helicopter, with members being lowered to the ground and firing from the sky. What looks like a Humvee is deployed from the chopper once it lands, tearing around the streets after the terrorists and wreaking it's own brand of havoc by demolishing fruit stands and causing civilians to dive out of it's way. Gunbattle ensues, with one member of the team firing a rocket which hits the Eiffel Tower, knocking it over and into the Arc de Triomphe... demolishing them both. The reaction of said team member? "Damn, I missed."
The leader of Team America determines that a worldwide coordinated terrorist attack is coming soon, that will be the equivalent of 100 9/11s. Don't ask me how they manage to make jokes about this without seeming disrespectful, but they pull it off. It's determined that an actor is needed to infiltrate a terrorist cell because only an actor could pull this off. They find Gary Johnston, a Broadway actor who can make the audience cry because he can tap into his own "personal pain."
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have managed to insert just about every action movie cliche you've ever seen into this movie. After watching this you'll probably never be able to watch another action movie with a straight face when one of those scenes inevitably shows up. There is the one character who will not accept the "new guy" until he's proven himself, there are relationship conflicts in the team since it's made up of both men and women, there's the level-headed guy, the girl who is not quite as attractive as the blue-eyed blonde, etc., etc.
Of course the parody of action films goes way beyond the team dynamics to action sequences, music, camera shots, and on and on. It's really quite amazing to see what they accomplished with all hand built sets and string puppets in this era of CGI.
The thing I liked about this movie is that no one was spared in the lampoon department. The film starts out apparantly slamming the current U.S. administration, showing Team America doing as much damage in their pursuit of terrorists as the terrorists would have caused themselves, and being oblivious to this fact. What I found surprising was that as the movie went on, the Left seemed to be on the receiving end of most of the humor.
Of course maybe my particular leaning is what leads me to that conclusion, but I found it interesting (and I have to admit, satisfying) to see representations of a number of outspoken Liberal actors and actresses depicted as hypocrites that came to no good end. For example Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and others take the side of Kim Jong Il of North Korea who is hosting a worldwide peace conference while actually planning the aforementioned worldwide terrorist attack. Although they are adamant about abolishing violence, they have no problem going after Team America with machine guns in order to stop them.
Also, Hans Blix puts in an appearance telling the Korean dictator that he must allow him to inspect his palace, or else. "Or else what?" says Kim Jong Il. "Or else the U.N. will be very, very angry and will write you a letter saying so."
I almost fell out of my seat on that one.
Considering that I recently read that Trey and Matt lean to the Left, I was really surprised to see how these folks (and Michael Moore) were skewered in this movie.
To wrap things up, they came up with the most outrageous analogy that I could ever dream of to describe Conservatives, Liberals, and Dictators/Terrorists and their relationships to one another. Let's just say that it's outrageous enough that I won't allow myself to repeat it here.
I can see why Team America: World Police is not dominating at the box office. Although it has it's moments, it's not consistently funny. I laughed out loud here and there, chuckled at other moments, but there were many times where the jokes just didn't cut it, and a lot of the dialogue and situations were so crude or gross that I really didn't find them funny at all. Overall however, it does hit the mark making fun of the action movie genre and maybe making us think a little bit "outside the box" of our own particular political ideologies.