|Team America: World Police (2004)
Starring: voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Dian Bachar, Kristen Miller
Director: Trey Parker
“Team America: World Police” spends every second of its 105-minute running time walking the fine line between clever and stupid. For every spot on parody, there is a joke so hopelessly desperate, we’re left wondering if this is really the same team that made the brilliant “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.” That movie, like this one, took no prisoners and had no patience for propriety. This movie, unlike that one, approaches its targets less as a sharpshooter than as a 10 year old with an Uzi, pointing and spraying and mowing down whoever is unlucky enough to be nearby. That might work for Mad TV, but we’ve come to expect much, much better from Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
The setup is pretty simple, yet completely screwball: it’s a spoof of Jerry Bruckheimer movies, only with marionettes. The movie starts in Paris, where an arms exchange between Middle Eastern terrorists is thwarted by Team America, a group of non-military Adventure Inc. types who, while saving the day, destroy the Eiffel Tower, Lourve and Arc de Triomphe in the process. It is clear from the very beginning that Parker is painting with a very broad brush.
We soon see all of the archetypes of the action movie: the Traumatic Event in Act One, the new guy, the veteran with the inexplicable beef against the new guy, the montage (complete with a dead perfect “Holding Out for a Hero” song parody), and the ticking clock. But best of all, the hardcore sex scene. It took 10 trips to the MPAA, but Parker and Stone somehow cleared the raunchiest puppet sex sequence in movie history. It’s almost worth the price of admission alone.
The biggest problem with “Team America” is, they’re so good at mimicking the worst aspects of these movies that it’s sometimes frustrating to watch. The stilted dialogue, the obvious plot devices, the awful acting (yes, they’re puppets, but Ellen Degeneres showed the world last year that all it takes to sell a performance is your voice) is all here in spades. To make matters worse, the movie doesn’t seem to have any real agenda other than offending people (Hollywood in general, and Matt Damon in particular, take a vicious beating). While offending people is by no means a bad thing, it’s a pointless exercise in and of itself. Parker and Stone clearly went for dumb here, and they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
In fairness to “Team America,” it’s hard to imagine what they could have done to make the movie more tolerable. The obvious answer is to make it smarter, but that would defeat the purpose of lampooning the idiocy of (most of) Bruckheimer’s movies. Still, there has to be a compromise between Jerry’s swill and this. After all, if Parker and Stone meant to expose Bruckheimer’s movies for the shallow frauds that they are, how did they think that making an even dumber movie would accomplish that goal? That said, the movie isn’t entirely brainless. In the end, “Team America” isn’t without its charms, much like the movies they’re trying to roast.
The DVD release for a live-action film starring a bunch of two-foot tall marionettes is bound to have a ton of cool extras, and the Special Collector's Edition of "Team America: World Police" doesn't disappoint. First, Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk about how much harder it was to do a puppet movie than they thought it would be in "Team America: An Introduction." They also discuss their inspiration for the film: "Basically, if you took a Bruckheimer movie and made it with puppets, it would be the funniest movie ever," Parker says. "[Bruckheimer] basically does make comedies. He just doesn't realize it because he's a turd." Stone then admits that they originally wanted to do "Armageddon" with puppets and not change a line.
"Building the World" shows how the crew created all the different sets for the film, from Paris to Cairo to Panama. In "Crafting the Puppets," the puppet supervisors and principal puppeteers discuss the extensive process that went into the design and creation of all the puppets and how overwhelmed they all were when they initially read the film's script. "Pulling the Strings" is one of the most interesting featurettes on the set, showing how the puppeteers actually pulled off the live-action sequences (including the infamous sex scene), the various limitations involved with the marionettes, and how difficult it was to meet Parker and Stone's improvisational requests while filming. In "Capturing the Action," cinematographer Bill Pope ("The Matrix") explains how he treated "Team America" like any real action movie, and in "Miniature Pyrotechnics," we learn that no CGI effects were used in the film -- all the explosions and fires were real. There's also the "Dressing Room Test," "Puppet Test," deleted/extended scenes and outtakes, animated storyboards and two theatrical trailers.
And then there's the uncut sex scene. There's a reason this is the "Uncensored and Unrated" release -- let's just say the theatrical version was properly edited.