Film — Team America: World Police (R)
by Amy Diaz
Puppets fight in Team America: World Police, a movie from South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone where, as I previously mentioned, puppets fight.
And honestly, what else do you need to know about a movie? Because the only thing funnier than puppets fighting is puppets having sex, which they also do in this movie.
And, because it’s Parker and Stone, you know that the R is a hard-fought, skin-of-their-teeth kind of thing. Were these terrorism-fighting character humans instead of marionettes, this movie would surely be NC-17.
You also know that Parker and Stone likely will give us a movie full of songs—gloriously absurd, bitingly satiric, fantastically profane songs, the most tender of which will always be sung by the most evil character.
Why are you still reading? Go see the movie already!
OK, want some plot? Team America is a fearless group of terrorism fighters—and by fearless I mean unafraid of flying their fighters and attack helicopters into a foreign country and raining down bombs of really imprecise justice until all the bad guys, the occasional bystander and quite a few of that country’s national treasures have been reduced to bits. After one such mission, one of the members finally professes his love to Lisa (Kristen Miller), the blonde psychologist on Team America, who responds that she loves him too, only to watch her heartthrob be killed by that one terrorist that everybody thought was dead but was only stunned.
Shaken by their member’s death, the group must pull together to stop the ultimate terrorist incident—one that promises to be 9/11 times 100 (which, as the movie tells us, is 91,100). They bring on a new man, Gary (Trey Parker), a Tom-Cruise-ishly handsome Broadway actor just coming off a successful run in Lease: The Musical. His job, if he chooses to accept his role in Team America, will be to act like a terrorist. To infiltrate their number using his superb thespian skills and a glued-on beard and learn about their next attack.
At first reluctant to join the cause, Gary eventually decides to use his acting abilities to help defend freedom, in part because of a rousing country song (where it is observed that freedom costs a buck oh five) and in part because he has a crush on Lisa. Lisa kinda likes Gary too, but it’s just, quick in-take of air, so soon. And then there are the other members of Team America, some who like Gary (Sarah, the empath) and some who hate Gary (such as the team member who had a bad experience with actors as a teenager). And Gary himself isn’t all that sure about his Team America membership. After all, there was that incident with the gorillas when acting killed his brother…
But even if Gary ever is able to commit himself fully to Team America, it might be too late. Though the Team is busy focusing on Chechen rebels, the true menace comes from North Korea, where a very Cartman-sounding Kim Jong Il is using the acting prowess of Alec Baldwin to advance his evil schemes.
The movie, stripped to its elements, is a very serious, very bad action movie with stock characters (the all-American team member, the bitter team member, the useless female characters), stock scenes (the improvement montage, the last-minute rescue) and stock songs (the power rock, the patriotic country song, the love song that compares the size of Gary’s love to the size of Michael Bay’s failure with Pearl Harbor). A live-action version would be Mystery Science Theater 3000 material, ripe for the mocking.
With puppets in all the lead roles (fighting each other, walking their hoppy awkward marionette walk, having sex sans genitalia), the movie transcends to a higher plan of movie-making. One where every horrible flaw is amplified and parodied with surgical precision.
Sure, Team America: World Police is so crude and sharp and magnificently mercenary (it takes no sides and skewers righties and lefties alike) that you will take nary a sip of soda without snorting it right back out your nose with laughter. But at times the movie will also reach such a level of brilliance (say during the first scene featuring Team America’s theme song, “America, F—- Yeah!”) that you will be unable to do anything but gaze in slackjawed wonder.
Showing at: Cinemagic, Flagship Cinemas.
- Amy Diaz
2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH