Well, it seems it doesn't take much for South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to offend someone with their politically incorrect and often abrasive version of humor. After watching the first ten minutes of their new film, someone is sure to scream for a refund. But is it warranted? What is all the fuss about this time? They're just puppets for crying out loud!
Commander Spottswoode, head of an elite strike team who combats terrorism worldwide, hires Broadway actor Gary Johnston to infiltrate an arms dealer's hideout and uncover the secrets of the biggest terrorist plot mankind has ever known. Spottswoode's Team America consists of team leader Chris, flying ace Sarah, blonde bombshell Lisa, and martial arts expert Joe.
Team America is a mature theme-fueled cross between those giant abrasive Jerry Bruckheimer action flicks and Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds. Except what the creators of South Park have done is taken Anderson's style of storytelling and take it into a whole new level. The movement of the puppets is still stiff and corny, but it now has an R-rated edge.
One of my favorite characters in the film had to be the abrasive Spottswoode, who is an abrasive version of the Thunderbirds patriarch Jeff Tracy. It is pretty uncanny how the character's voice even sounds like Tracy. I wonder if his name is intentionally similar to action director Roger Spottiswoode, who directed the Mel Gibson action film Air America.
But my overall favorite character in the film is North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Trey Parker's portrayal of the character is utterly hysterical, especially when he faces Hans Blix (who is also voiced by Parker). That whole scene is "fall-out-of-your-seat" funny. Then, to top off the brilliant character, he breaks into a melancholy song called "I'm So Ronery". It is probably the best zany villain since Dr. Evil from Austin Powers.
The variations of theme, scope, and characterizations alone make the film watchable. Then, there are a lot of delightful songs that reminded me a lot of song-comedian Weird Al. I especially loved the songs "I Hate Pearl Harbor", which pokes fun at the Bruckheimer epic, and "Freedom Isn't Free", which is sung in the vein of country star Toby Keith.
If you can get past the offensive subject matter and see that the film is actually poking fun at itself, then you may find yourself in stitches. There is a lot of clever humor here.
The problem with Team America is that at about the one-hour mark the jokes seem to be less frequent and it kind of begins to become overly gratuitous. And in some ways, that is the biggest emulation to Jerry Bruckheimer in the film. In his action films he has always had problems with his third acts. (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.