Welcome to Animation for Adults, proving that cartoons ain’t just kid’s stuff. In celebration of the 4th of July, I’m breaking my embargo and reviewing Team America: World Police…. FUCK YEAH!
Team America: World Police was released in 2004 by Paramount Pictures, directed by Trey Parker, and features the voice talent of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller and Daran Norris.
Team America is an elite anti-terrorist organization who works around the clock to keep America safe from evil. After a mission to catch some terrorists in Paris goes awry, the team’s chief hunts down a Broadway actor Gary Johnston to go undercover and reveal a terrorist plot to destroy the world. When North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, the orchestrator of this plan, catches wind of their interference, he resorts to manipulating a group of pacifist actors into helping him out. Now that he has the influence of Hollywood’s finest actors at his command, he’s more powerful than ever, and Team America will stop at nothing to stop Kim Jong Il’s plot for world domination.
Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of South Park. Even though it’s cheap, vulgar, and offensive on just about every level, it still manages to conjure a laugh from me every single time, and I’m especially surprised at its skillful writing when you consider that they churn out each episode in only about a week at a time. And as you could probably guess, my love for this show was an integral part of the philosophy that this whole review series is built upon. I especially admire Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s ability to juggle multiple projects at the same breakneck speed. The South Park movie, Baseketball, The Book of Mormon (which I definitely plan on seeing if it ever comes to Cleveland), and Team America were all written and shot while Matt and Trey were simultaneously working on seasons of South Park. Again, this makes me impressed not only because the final outcome was as riotously funny as it is, but that it was able to function on any level at all.
I’ve honestly considered reviewing this movie for a long time, but thought it would be cheating since it’s not animation, but puppets that make up this movie. But since this is 4th of July weekend and this movie is about as “American” as you can get, I think I can let it slide. Besides, it’s puppets! That’s kind of like animation… I think… maybe…
The movie was initially made as a parody of big budget action films by people like Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Roland Emmerich and the like, and the use of marionettes is reminiscent of an old action show from the 60s called Thunderbirds. Whether that last part was intentional or not is up for debate, but it’s surprisingly fresh compared to all the summer blockbusters coming out at the time that are all laden with CGI. The marionettes used in this are very well crafted and are loaded with advanced technology that makes their heads and faces very expressive. Same can be said for the settings and backgrounds, which are all heavily detailed replicas of famous locations like Paris, New York, Panama, Egypt and Korea. Everything you see with a few exceptions is real, even the destruction and explosions.
If you’ve even watched one episode of South Park, then you should know what to expect about the humor. The portrayal of other nations are all caricatures and the foreign language dialogue is just gibberish, but while most people would find that offensive, I think it’s kind of a parody of how most Americans implicate global politics involving war and whatnot. Of course, Kim Jong Il is easily the best character in the movie. Even though he’s a sadistic megalomaniac, Kim Jong Il’s really a fascinating character in real life. (Seriously, do a Google search on anything not related to his politics. It’s actually quite intriguing.) But in this film he’s almost like if you crossed Cartman with Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam, and every time he’s on screen he practically steals the show, especially when he gets his own musical number. Then there are the celebrities. I think we’re all aware that some self righteous famous actors love to toot their own horn and act like they know what’s best for the world (I’m looking at you Bono), and while Parker and Stone are no strangers to ridiculing celebrities, they decided to declare open season on this one. This was released in a time when conservative bashing was commonplace and you couldn’t go 5 seconds without hearing a Bush joke. In this one they show that skewering liberals can be just as fun, if only because it’s easier to ruffle up their feathers. Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore, Samuel L. Jackson and MATT DAMON!!!, just to name a few, all get the shaft in this one, and like Kim Jong Il’s overblown persona, it’s just a treat to watch them get torn to pieces, both figuratively and literally. Now do you understand why Sean Penn hates them so much?
Of course, most of the humor is trademark Parker/Stone stuff; juvenile vulgarity mixed with a sharp wit and biting satire. But sometimes it’s just plain silly, and I think most of the humor (well most of the sight gags anyway) just stems from the fact that the whole movie is done with puppets. It’s no shocker that there’s probably no movie that has ever been done this way, so they decide to just take it and run with it. A lot of the physical humor comes from the movements of the puppets, whether they’re dancing or fighting which just consists of them flailing their limbs around, or partaking in the single greatest sex scene of all time. Hell, half the time you can clearly see the strings! Yeah, it’s weird and cheesy, but it’s just as intentional as all the other absurdities in this movie.
So what it all comes down to is that Team America: World Police is a brilliant satire and one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a great satire that rips apart world politics, celebrities, action flicks and everything in between. Fans of South Park will definitely get a kick out of it, but it’s not exclusive to them. It’s great for almost anyone as long as they aren’t easily offended and has a tolerance for political incorrectness. And if you are offended, I only have one thing to say: THEY’RE FUCKING PUPPETS MAN!
I give Team America 8/10.