Monday, December 16, 2013

Team America: World Police - 2004

"Team America: World Police" - 2004
Dir. by Trey Parker - 1 hr. 38 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There is one thing that Trey Parker (and long-time collaborator Matt Stone) manage to do better than anyone else: make cheesy, horrible material based on cheesy, horrible material, and have it come out awesome and funny.  The problem with making something deliberately awful and low-rent is that even if you succeed at your goals one hundred percent, you're still left with something awful and low-rent.  There's no way to win this game; for ninety-nine percent of people, if you start with crap, you end up with crap.  But "Team America: World Police" is proof that Parker and Stone belong to the one percent; a political action movie about terrorism made with puppets (with visible strings) is a patently bad idea that ends up being hilarious and awesome.

After a strike against terrorists in Paris that leaves the city in ruins and their squad leader dead, Team America is in need of a new leader.  Gary, a Broadway actor working on a play called "Lease," is recruited for the team.  He reluctantly joins, and Team America must work to thwart Kim Jong-Il's diabolical plot, and face off against the Film Actor's Guild, led by Alec Baldwin, and their liberal criticism of Team America.

Usually, making a film that makes liberal use of action movie cliches would end up lame and difficult to watch.  Viewers are sophisticated enough at this point that just pointing out the tropes of a genre isn't sufficient as a critique or as a basis for satire without something more being brought to the situation.  Genre films work largely because the filmmakers are able to use the cliches, and not draw attention to them while using them.  But making an action movie with puppets?  Perfect.  There are still action scenes (even a Matrix moment), there are explosions and lines delivered through gritted teeth.  But the fact that it's all done with puppets makes "Team America" pretty funny.  That, and Parker (and Stone) deliberately and gleefully go flying past the line of appropriateness over and over again.

There are two kinds of great stuff in "Team America": the soundtrack, and the scenes where it's even better because it's puppets doing awful things.  Much of the movie is just the cliche action scenes, but executed with absurd seriousness, and really great, ridiculous lines.  But there are also two great comedic scenes, even beyond the standard-issue action material that's been made funny.  There's an extended sex scene between two characters.  Does it matter that neither of the puppets have genitals?  Nope.  It's actually funnier, because I'm pretty sure everyone's taken two Barbie dolls and made them do X-rated things to each other, if only to get a quick laugh out of one of your friends.  So the idea of someone doing that in a multi-million dollar film, and having it projected onto big screen all across the world?  Awesome.  The other great scene is the dicks, pussies, and assholes analogy that Gary launches into, when called upon to out-act Alec Baldwin.  The monologue sums up everything great about Parker and Stone's material; it's so vulgar it's hard to repeat publicly, it's completely insane, and yet makes perfect sense.

And, as you might expect by now, any soundtrack by the "South Park" guys is going to be a complete winner.  It's really hard not to want to run around screaming, "America, fuck yeah!" after seeing "Team America."  There's more than just that one song, though, and I'm left scratching my head at how I could have managed not to have acquired this soundtrack by now.  That's going to have to be rectified sooner rather than later.

"Team America: World Police" isn't the best film that Parker and Stone have made; the South Park film is probably untoppable.  But it's probably the second best movie they've made, maybe only because they had something resembling a budget this time around.  There's no way this will leave you disappointed, unless you simply can't fathom that being too patriotic is a thing, and a thing to mock.  But then again, if that was the case, you'd have to be one of those people that get duped by "The Onion" headlines not to know exactly what you were getting in for when you sat down and watched this movie.

3.5 / 5 - TV (HD)

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