by Chris Parry
I know everyone who has ever witnessed Team America: World Police says that it is hilarious and incredible and a laugh riot and so on and so forth, so I watched the thing and figured I was in for a treat... but man, this flick blew. It blew from a comedy perspective, it blew from a political perspective, the only way it didn't blow was from a technical perspective. Bottom line: nice puppetry, crappy movie.Team America are a group of freedom defenders from the mighty US who go out and kill bad guys wherever they may show their dirty faces. Of course, Team America also causes a whole lot of damage in getting to those terrorists, destroying half of Paris in the opening scene, but they do get their man. Mostly.
"I'll bite... This flick sucked."
Unfortunately, the fine folks of Team America are in peril, because the evil liberal media and the uninformed celebrity masses are blaming all the world's ills on the poor, good-hearted Team America folk. Why would the celebrities side with the terrorists? Why would they turn on their own people, when all their heroes want to do is kill bad guys?
What follows is standard action movie fare, where standard action movies are satirized, even as the movie satirizing them is using them as a template. Wait, I've gone cross-eyed.
So it's Team America vs the celebrities, who have been used by the evil Kim Jong Il to do his wicked bidding. Look out, it's Janeane Garofalo with a bazooka! Gadzooks, it's Samuel L. Jackson with an AK-47! Oh my god, Michael Moore's a suicide bomber! Why do they not know that they're hurting Americaaaaaaaaaaa?!!?!?
Now, this is where I start to get really annoyed. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have decided to make a political satire, but they don't have the balls to actually include the two people who should be the target of said satire - two guys named Kerry and Bush - and instead they take shots at Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Janeane Garofalo, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, and anyone else who has ever spoken up against something that America is doing in the world.
I could appreciate that if Parker and Stoner had centred in on certain things said celebrities had done which are embarassing, or wrong, such as they did just once, when they focused on Sean Penn's silly trip to Baghdad pre-Iraq War. Fine, Penn is a doofus, go get him, but I have heard Tim Robbins talk many times about his political beliefs and he's as far from a terrorist sympathizer as you could find. Ditto Susan Sarandon, ditto Affleck (who actually went and spent some time in Iraq with the troops), ditto Baldwin, ditto Garofalo. In fact, it seems that Parker's and Stone's real beef with these people is that they don't believe the celebs actually know what they're talking about and simply get their info from newspapers and Michael Moore.
Matt Damon, for example, is portrayed as being retarded. Hilarious, except that the guy dropped out of college just 12 credits short of graduating. Which college? I'll give you a clue - it's in Boston and a character named Will Hunting mopped floors there.
Watching Team America, you get the impression that the real motive here was to shock, not satire. When the lead... puppet... is told to prove himself by going down on his boss, sure, it's amusing, but it's hardly comedy gold. When Middle Eastern characters say "dirka dirka Mohammed dirka", it's amusing, but only in the kind of way that 12-year-old boys find hysterical and everyone giggles mildly at. And when the puppets have sex... well, despite being told it's the funniest thing I'd ever see in my lifetime, I'd be lying if I said there was anything remotely amusing about the scene. I've seen Barbie Dolls do worse.
The storyline is a yawn. The politics, though they attempt to cover their asses by being mean to both sides, at least initially, seems to come firmly down in the camp of 'America, fuck yeah!' rather than 'America, hmm, maybe we should look at ourselves more closely'. The attitude is less a case of exposing the silliness of both sides, and more a case of saying, "hey, celebrities, shut up because... you're dumb... and we don't want to hear you talking... so just shut up, mm-kay?"
Alec Baldwin reportedly volunteered to voice his character and was refused. Why? One would have to think that Stone and Parker didn't want to have to defend themselves for the fact that they have depicted Baldwin leading a terrorist attack on Americans. That should have told them all they needed to know about whether they were making a real satire or an X-rated puppet show for 12-year olds.
The voices all seem to sound like Mr Garrison from South Park (no surprise, seeing as most of the voices came from Trey Parker, who voices Garrison on the show), and the music, which has been receiving high praise from many critics, is awful. The music itself all sounds like Saturday morning GI Joe theme songs, the words aren't anywhere near as funny or insightful as those from the South Park movie, and they don't stick in your head at all once the song is done. In fact, through most of the music in this film, I was kind of hoping they'd stop before they actually did. "America: Fuck Yeah!" - Oh, my sides. Someone hand me a stapler. No, please don't play it again... uh.. okay, four times is a bit much now, don't you think?
Above all else, Team America just isn't funny. The comedy is so lame in multiple parts of this film that I half expected to start hearing old ventriloquist jokes thrown in.. "Hey baby, wait 'til you see me crack wood..." or "The sex was great, but the splinters were a bitch..." The filmmakers seem to have the kind of fascination with obscenity that most of us had the first time we heard the phrase 'motherfucker' but grew out of by the age of puberty, and though I'm sure such things go over well with a big audience out on a Friday night looking for laughs, when you watch them in a quiet room without anyone else's laughs to goad you into your own, they fall flat with a heavy thud.
Having seen Parker and Stone try their hand at a non-South Park success with the awful Cannibal! The Musical, the funny but destined for video Orgazmo!, the often funny but mostly not Baseketball, and now the tweeny gigglefest of Team America, I have to say that the twosome seem to be only really effective when they're in their happy place - South Park, Colorado. Like Kevin Smith, who seems to flail when he's not using the characters that made him famous, Stone and Parker seem unable to make the transition to something else without relying on the things that tickle the black metal T-shirt market, and that gets old real quick.What it comes down to is, if you take the dumb politics out of Team America, all you're left with is puppets and swearing. And while the puppets are great, Parker and Stone weren't responsible for that part of the equation. A very weak, very forgettable, very predictable outing that will only get dumber as more and more people realize that, ya know, the celebrities were right. Mm-kay?
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10976&reviewer=1
originally posted: 11/03/04 11:32:56