In world politics, the concept of America acting as sort of a world police force has come up time and time again. Just take George W. Bush's recent actions in the war on terrorism and his attack on Iraq based on the so-called existence of weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact that no weapons existed in that country. There is no clearer example that in at least some respects, America feels it's a country that can do whatever it wants to protect the world and mostly itself from the threat of terrorists who are determined to attack their country. It's on that concept that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have created a feature film that satirizes the very idea of what a World Police Force based out of America may look and act like.
Team America starts with a bang as our heroes find themselves in Paris, France after they receive intelligence that a group of terrorists are planning to detonate a weapon of mass destruction. Arriving in the nick of time, they manage to thwart those evildoers, but not before the battle takes its toll on the city, destroying the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and killing one of the team's most important members in the process. Back at home in their base camp (located inside George Washington's mouth at Mount Rushmore) the team prepares for their next mission while team leader and mentor Spottswoode looks for the newest member to round out their team. That person is Gary, a highly acclaimed Broadway actor whose acting ability just so happens to be a skill needed for their next mission. Initially reluctant to join the team, Gary decides to do what's best for his country and agrees. Once on board, he gets a mixed reception. Female members Sarah and Lisa (who was dating the now deceased member) are both attracted to him, while Chris is openly hostile for reasons unknown and Joe the ex-athlete sits on the sidelines unsure of what to make of the new member. However, there is no time for adjustments as the team is thrown into action when they learn of a plot that will cause 100 times as much damage as 9/11. To thwart this syndicate of evildoers the team must go to Cairo, North Korea, and span the globe before it's too late. Meanwhile in Hollywood, actors are speaking out against the team's actions and all the destruction they are causing. That, and just what is Kim Jong Il up to? Will the world be obliterated or will Team America come to the rescue?
All right, I'll be the first to admit that Team America was one of my more highly-anticipated fall releases when I saw the teaser trailer back at a Paramount Pictures event almost half a year ago. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the very funny TV series South Park and the even funnier South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut â€" which I describe to this day as a Disney children's movie on crack â€" are without a doubt very funny and creative guys. So when I saw they were doing a "puppet" movie (okay, marionettes aren't technically puppets) and were doing a satire on modern politics and the action blockbuster, I was stoked. Having said that, high expectations are a dangerous thing to have, especially in this business, so I'm happy to say that for the most part I wasn't let down with Team America: World Police. Simply put, the film delivers pretty much everything fans of Parker and Stone have come to expect, and while it doesn't really cover any new ground, it's still a very entertaining and consistently funny way to spend 100 minutes.
It's clear that Parker and Stone know what they are doing as they go over the top in pretty much every way possible. No better example of that is the much-publicized sex scene between two puppets, which caused them to receive an NC-17 rating the first 10 times they submitted it to the MPAA. As it stands now in the film, the scene runs about 45 seconds and generated a gut-busting amount of laughter from the crowd at the advance screening. Originally rumored to be anywhere from 90 seconds up to 2 minutes, I can't imagine how much more they could have included. I think I might have died of laughter if the scene went on that long. Still, it'll return to its original form for the DVD edition, so I might want to make sure my medical plan is updated before then. Also equally as funny, though in a typical gross way, is a scene where Gary, our reluctant hero, gets drunk and vomits almost non-stop for a sustained period of time. Stone and Parker know stuff like that is what their core demographic audience wants, and they deliver it in spades. Also back from the South Park movie are those trademark wacky songs, and man are they hilarious. From the hard-pumping "America [Expletive Deleted]" rock number, to the Diane Warren-esque "Pearl Harbor Sucked and I Miss You", to a mid-paced number by Kim Jong Il, there is hardly a song that seems out of place. In fact, I can't remember the last soundtrack album I wanted to buy this much before having heard a single note. There's also their trademark lampooning of Hollywood celebrities (Liv Tyler, Matt Damon, and regulars George Clooney and Alec Baldwin), all of course voiced by people other than themselves (and in most occasions purposely done very poorly).
Team America is a film that works on many levels, but doesn't do so without a fair share of problems. First of all, I thought the film was a tad long at just over 100 minutes (although 5-7 minutes are the end credits). Pacing is a bit problematic, and the film did have a number of subplots that didn't really seem to go anywhere. Then again, Stone and Parker are openly making fun of Jerry Bruckheimer movies like Pearl Harbor and Armageddon, which had many of the same issues (bloated running times included). In fact, if you lost some of the satirical and political commentary (however slight it may be), then you could conceivably use the screenplay for a Michael Bay-type movie. Conceptually-speaking, the idea of using marionettes is quite humorous in itself, and that is made increasingly more funny but the fact that no attempt is made to hide the strings. That, and the limitations of the 'actors' is quite funny. Still on the problem side, the movie does hit a few lulls in terms of the laugh quotient, and pacing is a tad uneven as I glanced at my watch no fewer than three times in the final 20 minutes. Minor problems aside, Parker and Stone do more right than wrong here.
One's enjoyment of Team America: World Police is highly dependant on their enjoyment of work similar in style and tone to Matt Stone and Trey Parker's other work. If you like South Park then you'll like Team America. Hilarious moments, a first-rate soundtrack that should spawn another Oscar nomination for best song (my vote is Kim Jong Il's song), and a number of spot-on spoofs on the Jerry Bruckheimer epic action film are just a few of the many highlights wrapped inside a 100-minute 'puppet movie'. It's not the ground-breaking film some may have led you to believe, but it's still a highly enjoyable time at the movies for those of you who just want to laugh. Recommended.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.