Team America: World Police

dir: Trey Parker
[img_assist|nid=975|title=Keeping the World Safe from Everything Except Them|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=306|height=450]
It's a new world, which looks remarkably like the 'old' world as
portrayed in movies circa the 1980s. The entire globe is defined (as
in European, Egyptian and Korean cities) in terms of distances and
directions from the US. The soundtrack is the power chord laden
empty-headed nonsense as typified in glorious fashion by the title
song 'America? Fuck Yeah!'; a song so good Van Halen are kicking
themselves that they never recorded it. And the jingoistic action is
over the top, constantly explosive and cheesy / ridiculous in the
extreme. In short, this is an 80s action film parody chock full of the
requisite cliches of the era, except with puppets.

Marionettes, to be exact, I guess. I bet the lunatics responsible for
the recent Thunderbirds debacle, a movie I'm sure many of you didn't
even realise had ever been released, are kicking themselves over the
fact that this puppet feature worked out better than their film did,
despite the fact that they had humans and all (though I might prefer
DNA evidence on Sir Ben Kingsley before I can confirm his humanity).
Basically, the pugnacious, malevolent, occasionally brilliant
arseholes responsible for South Park, Cannibal: The Musical, Orgazmo
and BASEketball for some inexplicable reason decided to cash in on the
current level of global unrest with a movie that ridicules the
political bent of pretty much anyone currently alive and several
people already dead.

There is a current overwhelming temptation to divide all discourse on
issues of a political nature into 'left' and 'right'. It's kind of
unavoidable, and by even mentioning it, it means I'm playing into it
as well. Parker and Stone have made a dubious living from ridiculing
each and every prominent or otherwise figure in the media, in politics
or in pop culture, and every idea or value that anyone holds dear. I
haven't watched every South Park episode ever made, but I can safely
say that there are few taboo subjects that they've managed to leave
out or avoid smearing in people's faces over the years. Child
molestation, necrophilia, every kind of aberrant or repugnant sexual
fetish, every single politically correct social taboo (gays, retards,
cripples, jews, African Americans, Presbytarians, Michael Jackson etc)
and a whole stack of others that I've mercifully forgotten have been
covered over the years that they've been inflicting their 'works' upon
the world (for which, I'm sure, one day they'll be canonised). That
some people are scratching their heads over the apparent ideologies
expressed in the second half of the film, prompts me to remind people
of two things: 1) they've made a career out of pillorying figures from
the left, right, up and down, sidewise and any other political
persuasion you can think of, and 2) this is a film where the
protagonists are puppets, for crying out loud.

I was amused to see Old Farmer Stratton on At the Movies (is that what
the new Movie Show is called on the ABC?) decry the film saying that
the seemingly mean-spirited condemnation of prominent Hollywood people
in the film (Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Susan
Sarandon, Tim Robbins et al) turned him off big time. Mostly he
objected to the fact that these so-called people of conscience were
being demolished in such a hateful manner in order to push some sort
of right wing agenda. I have to wonder: David, I don't expect that you
sit in your comfy chair in front of the telly on Monday nights
watching South Park with a jar of vaseline to your left and a six pack
of beer and a box of tissues to your right, but you are familiar with
their previous work, right? You do know what they're capable of? Their
raison d'etre, so to speak?

Surely in the context of satire and parody anyone, not simply the
figures in public life that we personally don't think much of, is a
fair target. Hell, with the exception of Danny Glover I can honestly
say that I think the world of most of the actors specifically
portrayed as absolute tools in the film. But I cannot in all
seriousness think for a second that Parker and Stone genuinely hate
these people and are seriously implying that they're genuinely aiding
communist or otherwise terrorists in their endeavours to one day Rule
the World!

It's such an overwhelmingly over-the-top parody that reading that kind
of seriousness into it seems bizarre to me. It's not as if anyone
really is above that kind of ridicule or should be from the point of
view of fans who have previously giggled like little schoolgirls at
their work. To those that clutch a crucifix whenever Their works
appear on screen, or think that the diabolical duo of Parker and Stone
are tools of Satan hell-bent on destroying American traditional values
with cartoons and puppets, well, it's not like they're really the
audience for this film anyway. I can't imagine tickets to Team America
selling like Passion of the Christ tickets in states like Utah, Texas
or Queensland, I mean really.

Which is a shame. The kinds of mouthbreathers that would have creamed
in their pants whilst watching Rambo films in the 80s or asteroid
films in the 90s whilst pumping a fist in the air and screaming 'USA!!
USA!!' would have loved this film if a) it had been made by Jerry
Bruckheimer and starred either Action Nicolas Cage or Bruce Willis or
b) they removed one crucial scene of cocksuckery towards the end of
the film. The plot is pure formula, the dialogue in parts, the
characters and the character 'motivations' are so stock-standard
action movie derivative that people who didn't realise it was the
height of parody would think it was brilliant. Sure they'd have to
have been lobotomised in the first place to make such a mistake, but
still, there always hope.

By adhering so clearly to this formula and taking it to the most
ludicrous extremes the story does all it needs to in order to justify
its credentials as a satire on contemporary US culture. It's
unrepentant in its depiction of the insularity with which America
itself is sold not to the world at large, but to Americans themselves.
The obliviousness of Our Heroes to the destruction they perpetrate is
funny, yes indeed, but the context in which it occurs is even funnier,
or tragic, dependant upon your view of current world events.

Our Heroes have their Team America headquarters in the heads of the
four presidents sculpted into Mount Rushmore, from which they
routinely deploy in order to kill terrorists and preserve democracy
around the world. On a mission to Paris, France, where they try to
stop some evil looking arab terrorists from perpetrating some various
kinds of naughtiness, they save the day, but not before destroying
every recognisable Parisian landmark. And instead of being grateful,
the cheese-eating surrender monkeys look on in horror and disgust.

Alas, one of their number loses his life, and Spottswoode the
alcoholic that runs Team America decides that he needs must be
replaced. Only one kind of person can save the world from impending
doom: an actor! During a sell-out performance of 'Everyone Has AIDS'
from the hit musical Lease, Spottswoode spots Gary, one of the
greatest actors he's ever seen. Because, honestly, when you're dealing
with situations of high danger and cataclysmic global importance, who
else but an actor can really cut it.

Gary is accepted by the crew, mostly without incident except by the
most foul-mouthed member of the gang, Chris, who harbours a terrible
childhood secret, and hates all actors. Gary himself also harbours a
terrible childhood secret, and we sit there wondering if these
childhood traumas will be resolved at any stage, because gods forbid
that anyone has a childhood trauma brought up in a movie that isn't
resolved by the fucking end credits.

All the same (sorry, I seem to be letting a childhood trauma affect my
work here), apart from the activities of three distinct groups (Team
America, Arab Terrorists and the Film Actors Guild ably supported by
Michael Moore) there seems to be an even more nefarious evil behind
world events. Yes it's Kim Jong Il, the ruthless tyrant that rules
North Korea both ruthlessly and tyrannically. Obviously, being Korean
he has no ability to use the letter 'R' whilst speaking, which adds an
extra level of poignancy to his song 'I'm Lonely', that he sings as he
strides forlornly through his evil fortress that looks suspiciously
like it's constructed from Chinese take-away boxes.

Only time will tell if Team America prevails and badness is
vanquished, but along the way we are blessed with insane distortions
of the action genre clich├ęs that we've come to know and love over the
years. Our Hero gets a chance to ride a motorcycle whilst a melancholy
ballad plays over it ('Pearl Harbor sucked and I Miss You'), there's a
montage sequence where the fundamental elements of montage sequences
are explained in song, there's the famous puppet sex scene (which has
at least one position you'll never see simulated in a mainstream
movie), and an abundance of puppet violence with heads and bodies
exploding in glorious Technicolour.

The sex scene is, despite what you may have heard, nothing at all like
what some particularly strange people may have told you. Apart from
the creepily expressive marionette heads, the unclothed puppets look
like any kid's dolls: far from anatomically correct. The humour arises
from the positions they put the puppets through, not from any
explicitness. Overall it's about as explicit as watching a little girl
whack her naked Ken and Barbie dolls together whilst growling 'bark
for me, monkeywoman' under her breath. But, unlike in the film, you
could at least be reasonably sure that the girl isn't going to put her
dolls in the 'piledriver' position, although you never know how
extensive her knowledge of the Kama Sutra may be.

Maybe that's a tad too disturbing for this family program. Speaking of
which I was on the tram the other day when a young teenager and his
dad were animatedly discussing parts of the film they thought were the
funniest. My, my, how wonderful that a father and son could bond over
such an experience. Had it been myself two decades ago watching such
filth with my father I'd have faked my own death just to get over the
embarrassment of it all.

Luckily I don't need to do that yet, but I'm pretty sure this isn't a
film he would have liked. You need to have a remarkable amount of
willing suspension of disbelief to forget that you're watching puppets
at any given moment, despite the remarkable faces and the excellent
puppeteering. I could never do it, which means I was constantly
looking at it from the point of view of how it was being done. In all
seriousness it's not really necessary since it's entirely farcical

I did get a bunch of laughs out of this, I have to admit. I also have
to admit that most of those laughs came from the crudest and cheesiest
moments that the movie had to offer. My biggest laugh to be honest was
from both the sex scene and the incredibly overdone vomiting scene,
stuff which probably won't even raise a titter on subsequent viewings.
The overall production is just amazingly well done for what is truly
the most bizarre creation that any studio invested money in this year.
I find it several shades of amazing that Bill Pope, the
cinematographer who worked on the Matrix films, Army of Darkness and
Spider-Man 2 also took time out on something as strange as this. It
just shows that cinematographers, like alcoholics and crack addicts,
will do practically anything for money.

Anyone who takes the idiotically facile 'dicks, pussies and assholes'
analogy as applied to US foreign policy to heart that's given as a
sage piece of advice to our hero Gary at a crisis point, and then
repeated at film's climax to the leaders of the world seriously really
isn't thinking it through. For me to believe that Parker and Stone
consider that to be anywhere near a reasonably accurate opinion as to
how nations should approach the world and the problems that arise in
it I'd have to also believe that the crucial scene that precedes the
end sequence also represents their beliefs: that the only genuine way
for a guy to trust another guy is if he sucks the other guy's dick to
prove his commitment to the team. The 'dicks, pussies and assholes'
idea is as much a satire of the idiotically insular world view that it
arises from as it is open ridicule of those that believe it. You can
take it no more seriously than anything else that occurs in the film,
from watching a UN inspector being fed to sharks or Susan Sarandon
screaming 'You will die a peasant's death!' before being
unceremoniously eviscerated.

For some reason seeing the Matt Damon puppet yelling nothing but
'Matt Damon!!' was really funny. I really don't know why and can't
afford the psychiatrist's bills to find out, it was just stupidly
amusing. That's the level of humour you have to look forward to,
people. Don't blame me if you find it less funny than something
you found in your bucket of chicken: 'Hey ma, look, a tooth!'

It's not the funniest thing you'll see all year, though it's a decent
little time-killer. It is sometimes uproarious, often scathing,
constantly mocking and openly as dependent upon and critical of the
pop culture from which it arises. What more could you want, you
ungrateful swine? Sorry, sorry, it's my childhood trauma coming
through and making me nasty. Forgive me, please

7 puppets fucking in reverse cowgirl out of 10

Kim Jong Il: When I rule the world, it won't be 9/11 times a hundred,
it will be 9/11 times 3,765!
Chris: That's... I don't even know what that is!
Kim Jong Il: Nobody does.