Team America: World Police
Review by Diana, MaceVindaloo, Bunchbox
Producer: Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Screenplay: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristin Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris
Rating: Death Star
Many Hutties grew up loving the "supermarionation" version of the TV series Thunderbirds, but frankly, some of us found it rather creepy and taking itself way too seriously. Trey Parker had never seen the original series, but when the shows became available on DVD, he and Matt Stone imbibed ... and they decided it would be great to do a Jerry Bruckheimer film ... with puppets! How funny would that be?
One thing lead to another; they couldn't execute Armageddon with puppets (even with the promise of not a single change to the scripts) so they wrote an adventure script and discovered how hard it actually was (thus giving them more respect for Bruckheimer); Bill Pope agreed to do the camera work (who's he? Camera guy for the Matrix, Spiderman2 ... he got tired of green screen, he said). They decided to do all in-camera effects rather than resorting to Computer Graphics (except to illustrate a computer and for the opening titles and such). They got the guy who did the pyrotechnics for Independence Day. And lots and lots of puppeteers and geeks to create animatronic heads with modified software. And a big dose of their usual fun and twisted sense of what kicks butt.
We notice that many people mostly non-Americans thought this movie was great for how it makes fun of the Americans in the post-9/11 world full of terrorism and threats to freedom. How odd that we, as Americans, saw that it was hilarious because it depicted us accurately. They didn't make fun of us, it was a portrait of America with a fairly distortion-free mirror! And therein lies the humor: Parker and Stone and the crew took the story really seriously and shot an action flick like they wanted. But they also chose to show the marionette strings, let the gimpy walks and skinny legs prevail; all the limitations of the art form were apparent in all their glory, and that's where the hilarity came from.
Parker and Stone, not having Sadaam Hussein to pick on right now, chose North Korean despot Kim Jong-il as the movie's villain. They also decided to send-up a bunch of liberal-dingdong Hollywood actors who know nothing but have an opinion on it, and because they are actors, they say it with authority and idiots believe them. And basically, they blow up everything and everyone, literally and metaphorically. It's a great movie, and it sure does "Put the F Back in Freedom!" (As usual, they don't ask permission of the people they are slamming.)
Of course, these guys created South Park, which gets them a comfy seat to hell, and this movie will get them warm beverages and dry toast on the trip down, too. They were spot-on in recognizing the hilarity of the Thunderbird television series mated to a Bruckheimer film. And being who they are, they hid many jokes in the sets palm trees with fronds made with US dollar bills, a basket full of goldfish crackers, lamps made of cheesegraters, a cantina scene modeled on the GFFA (with the music played backwards!), a Klingon war cry (which allows them to put "French, English, Klingon" for languages used in this flick), Jedi mind tricks, depictions of cities as seen by Americans who have never been there ... there is a LOT going on in the sets alone. There are also a lot of explosions. As Matt Stone pointed out, "Otherwise the sets would sit in a warehouse and gather dust."
All the characters are archetypes and clichés, even if they are modernized. Kim Jong-il, for instance, reminds one of Dr. Evil, as well as Cartman or Kyle's cousin Kyle. Team America is comprised of a football hero from Iowa; a bitter martial arts specialist/rape victim from Detroit; a stung-by-the-death-of-a-loved-one blonde psychologist; an empath who's clueless; an actor/spy (because spying is just acting, after all); and the gruff scotch-slamming father figure. They smoke, drink, have sex, cry, shoot things, die, and they can act! (Parker purports they took on this project because they hate actors, by the way ...) Terrorists all look "middle eastern" and they admit to "color coding" the heads to tell terrorists apart from "other" characters. They are so politically incorrect; as usual, they try to offend everyone, even by their absence (Matt Damon and George Clooney stated they'd be personally insulted if they weren't in the movie). They also admitted that every set is depicted per what Americans most likely think these places look like (including croissant cobblestones in Paris).
Parker and Stone are extremely childish men, and they like to push the envelope of possibility just for the heck of it. They depicted raunchy pornography with naked puppets (for which they initially received an NC-17 rating! But they're puppets, not real people! Can dolls posed in particular ways be obscene? Oh, yeah ...). These puppets emote and express themselves so convincingly that even the puppeteers thought the effect was way too creepily believable. They opted to make them less "real" and "disperfected" the lipsynch and such. They also decided not to use any CG at all (which they publicly stated was a really dumb idea of theirs). But the results were well worth any suffering on their part.
And let us not forget the music! They'd contemplated making this a musical, which it kind of is. Why else would Kim Jong-il, having fed U.N. inspector Hans Blix to his sharks, singing the sad, "I'm So Rone-ree." The dictator also choreographs and produces a variety show extravaganza for world leaders. But the prize is the themesong, called "America, Fuck Yeah!" (sung both energetically and also ballady). We'll watch anything with those lyrics, as well as the love song "Pearl Harbor Sucked Nearly As Much As I Miss You" (I need you, like Ben Affleck needs acting school, he was terrible in that film ...), or "Freedom Isn't Free" (It costs a buck-oh-five). After all, if one is doing a Bruckheimer send-up, one needs Aerosmith-style rock and rock-ballad and country songs full of vapid feelings and angst!
So you see, it has everything, and the DVD has many, many extras well worth the price of admission, including behind the scenes stuff, deleted scenes, bloopers, interviews, etc. Even a commentary on puppet porn and the use of Barbie and Ken dolls in the hands of grown but maturity-stunted men ... Watch it ... fuck, yeah!
Images from www.imdb.com
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