Monday, October 18, 2004

This Weekend at the Movies: Puppet Pandemonium

Here's my review of Team America: World Police.

Team America: World Police

Dir. Trey Parker

Featuring the voices of Trey Parker and Matt Stone

105 min: Rated 18A

The world is divided into three groups of people: dicks, pussies, and assholes. At least that’s the elaborate political metaphor that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the irreverent creators of South Park, put forward in their outrageous and hilarious new puppet-satire, Team America: World Police. If that doesn’t sound like a very sophisticated metaphor to you (not to mention you’ve been offended by the very utterance of those three terms), perhaps this isn’t the movie for you. For the rest of you that want to laugh, get your asses down to the movie theatre right now and prepare for the funniest movie of the year.

The idea behind Team America is that the world is rampant with terrorism, and only the elite task force of “Team America” (brought to life via marionettes, not unlike the famous 60s British children’s show, Thunderbirds) can combat the problem. However, in their battle to make the world safe from Weapons of Mass Destruction, the team doesn’t seem to care what gets damaged in the process, be it the pyramids or most of Paris. When a team member is killed, actor Gary Johnston is recruited from his lead in the Broadway musical Lease (witness the show stopping finale, “Everyone Has AIDS”) to “act” like a terrorist and infiltrate the enemy. Sounds like a really topical film doesn’t it? And it is. Of course like any good action movie, heroes doubt themselves, team members fall in love, and world safety is threatened by the plans of Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il.

Parker and Stone’s last film, the brilliant comic-musical South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, showed that the guys have no problem offending anyone and everyone with their biting satire of America and MPAA ratings…with a few dick and fart jokes thrown in for good measure. Team America continues the tradition, satirizing the war on terror, American self-image and Hollywood action movie clichés, and even more dick and fart jokes, including a ludicrous puppet sex scene that had to be cut down in order for the film to avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating. Of course the idea that two wooden puppets engaging in strange fetishist sex is going to corrupt the youth of America, and a none of the other outrageous material that managed to remain in the film, including the above stated political metaphor, is…well, for that particular gripe see their last film (“Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty words”).

Ultimately however, the most scathing satire in the film isn’t directed at world leaders or political stances (both left and right can make compelling arguments that the film is an attack on their particular politics), but rather at Hollywood, be it the self-important actors who take it upon themselves to educate us lesser mortals, or the tired Jerry Bruckheimer-esque action film clichés which Parker and Stone seem to have down perfectly, including the training montage, the serious moment, the obligatory love interest, etc. One of the musical numbers is entitled “Pearl Harbour Sucked and I Miss You.” As expected, the guys take satire to the extreme, including naming the villainous actors union the Film Actors Guild (you figure out the acronym) and feature everybody’s favourite documentary director, Michael Moore as a hot dog munching suicide bomber. However, if you can’t take Parker and Stone’s twisted sense of humour, perhaps you’d better side with Sean Penn, whose scathing open letter to the young men was posted on the Drudge Report website last week, criticizing them for mocking the war on terror while hundreds of people die and even signed it “All best, and a sincere fuck you.”

For the rest of us however, we can see the humour in America’s sometimes rash “world policing,” or Hollywood’s tireless ability to show us how sensitive and politically apt they are. Nobody and nothing is out of bounds for Matt Stone and Trey Parker to satirize and ridicule. However, in the end they have created an entertaining, topical satire, full of clever songs, creative puppeteering (how they got all that vomit inside the Gary puppet I’ll never know) and yes, it’s crude and funny as hell. Rating: A-


At 10:22 p.m., Blogger cait said...

Okay, after reading that review, I am *really* not sure whether I want to see that movie or not . . .


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