Tired of a certain administration’s idea of “foreign policy”, fighting evildoers in foreign lands only to cause even more damage than before?
Are you sick of hearing egocentric Hollywood celebrities, both liberal and conservative, pushing their own political agendas as if it were holy writ?
And when you go to the movies, do your bowels convulse profusely when you see the words “A Jerry Bruckheimer Production” come across the screen?
If you answer “yes” to any of the above, then the new marionette extravaganza, Team America: World Police, is for you. The new film from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone is an all-out assault on those things and more. Using 22-inch tall marionettes, inspired by the cheesy Gerry Anderson show from the 1960s, Thunderbirds, instead of real actors, the demented duo create a sharp, vulgar satire that comes off as the funniest, and demented, film to emerge from Hollywood in a very long time.
The plot, keeping in the spirit of such Bruckheimer lobotomies as Armageddon, Con Air, Top Gun and Pearl Harbor, is a simple one: Team America, an international police force dedicated to maintaining global stability, learns that a power-hungry dictator is brokering weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. To infiltrate the terrorist network, they recruit Gary Johnston, a rising star on Broadway, to go undercover. Although initially reluctant to sacrifice his promising career, Gary realises that his acting gift is needed for a higher cause.
With the help of Team America leader Spottswoode and fellow members Chris, Sarah, Lisa and Joe, Gary slips into an arms dealer’s hideout where he discovers that the terrorists’ plot has already begun to unfold.
Few are spared in Parker and Stone’s satirical blitzkrieg, although oddly, President Bush – who some would say is Dick Cheney’s real-life puppet – is never mentioned or shown; instead only his foreign policies are attacked. Those on the left and the right, and some in between, are targeted and decimated over the course of 90 minutes. Anyone who is offended in the slightest over profanity, violence, vulgarity, political incorrectness or puppets having sex is advised to look elsewhere for entertainment.
I, however, have no problem with any of the above (What can I say? Puppets engaging in hardcore sex are perversely funny!). A motion picture can be as offensive and un-PC as it wants to be as long as it is an equal opportunity offender and has a bit of integrity behind its jokes. Team America, much like Parker and Stone’s 1999 classic, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, easily meets these criteria, even if it hits an occasional dead spot and isn’t as focused and razor-sharp as South Park.
Unlike most Americans today, who see only one side to a political topic – theirs – Parker and Stone skip choosing a side, opting instead to attack anyone and everyone they see fit. Hardly the type of PR move that will help them win the hearts and minds of their peers in Hollywood, but after witnessing the hilarious (and truthful), devil-may-care way in which they poke fun at liberals, conservatives, celebrities, world leaders, gays, straights, Arabs, Americans, Asians and the French, making friends and influencing people doesn’t really seem to be all that important to them.
They are out to attain only one goal: produce a steady barrage of laughs that range from solid to gut-busting for an hour and a half, and they do that in a winning style reminiscent of Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers back in their respective heydays.
Elevating the overall value of the film is superb marionette work (the puppets elicit more emotions than most real actors do these days); a wonderfully profane collection of songs written by Parker and Stone (including what should become the new national anthem, America, F**K YEAH!!!); Jim Dultz’s excellent production design; and Bill Pope’s impressive cinematography.
You have to search long and hard to find the last mainstream Hollywood comedy that was as funny, observant and downright brazen as Team America: World Police. In fact, I believe that previous film was five and a half years ago – the aforementioned South Park film.
To borrow a page from wise ol’ Dubya: Mission Accomplished.