Team America: World Police (2004)

reviewed by
David N. Butterworth

A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2004 David N. Butterworth
*** (out of ****)

Don't be fooled by the puppets. "Team America: World Police" isn't a kid's movie much as Ralph Bakshi's "Fritz the Cat" wasn't a kid's movie and Peter Jackson's "Meet the Feebles" wasn't a kid's movie (though you'd never guess it from the poster art). In fact, this R-rated film came close to receiving an NC-17 rating until director Trey Wilson ("Orgazmo," "Cannibal! The Musical") made a few cuts to an explicit sex scene.

Puppets having explicit sex? Do I really want to see this movie you're asking? Well, if you're a fan of subversive, no holes barred humor (much of it of the potty variety) and aren't easily offended by the lampooning of ethnic and cultural stereotypes, the war in Iraq, homosexuality, AIDS, Hollywood's finest (among them Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Liv Tyler, Samuel L. Jackson, and Helen Hunt), and just about everything and everyone in between then yes--you might well find it a laugh riot from beginning to end, no strings attached!

"South Park" creators Wilson and Matt Stone are behind this tastefully distasteful marionette comedy about a bunch of gung-ho, red, white and blue-blooded American super cops known as Team America. Operating out of a not-so secret base deep within Mt. Rushmore, these fighting fit quintet of Rambo-like mercenaries are called into action whenever bin Laden-esque terrorists with portable WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) threaten. Unfortunately the team's missions often result in significant AMD (Accidental Mass Destruction), such as in the opening scene in Paris, France ("3,615 miles east of America") where the cultural metropolis is reduced to a pile of ashen rubble in minutes. Oops.

When one of their own is killed in the offensive, the Team's leader Spottswoode, who spins in and out of frame on a mechanical chair for some reason and interacts with a stoner computer known as I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E., looks to an actor in a Broadway show as a replacement. Why exactly? Spottswoode's plan is that Gary Johnson can infiltrate the terrorist's lair by Acting his way in. Following an hysterical skin graft makeover and more destruction on a global scale, this dopey, derisive film builds to a climactic confrontation with North Korea's Kim Jong Il and members of the Film Actor's Guild (F.A.G.) headed up by the politically pompous peacekeeper Alec Baldwin.

Puppetry presents a particular challenge (and Supermarionation experts Gerry and Sylvia Anderson would be turning over in their grave if indeed they were dead--the idea for "Team America" supposedly came after Parker saw an episode of "Thunderbirds" for the very first time). But the writers make fun of these challenges along with everything else, spoofing the limitations of their characters (especially the highly strung funny walks). "Team America" is mostly very silly and surprisingly good-natured, including the sex scene, a scene in which a drunken Gary vomits endlessly, and the profane--and catchy--‘rah ‘rah musical interludes. The boys leave no personality unskewered, from Jerry Bruckheimer to Michael Moore to Hans Blix (who buys it in Kim's shark tank).

Technically proficient and highly imaginative, "Team America: World Police" is one of those films that's hard to feel lukewarm about. Either you'll dismiss it as 100% offensive or revel in its inspired lunacy. I personally laughed myself silly.

David N. Butterworth

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