Team America: World PoliceReviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 10/15/04 14:53:20
(Worth A Look)
There are two camps: Those who feel slighted by becoming a target on Trey Parker & Matt Stone’s hitlist and those with a winning sense of humor who see it as a compliment. A better debate would be whether what the creators of South Park have can be considered a “hitlist” at all. One of their most admirable qualities is how everyone and everything is fair game. This includes their friends, inhumorous taboos and maybe even you. God and Hell love ‘em. In fact the worst thing I can think to say of their epic puppet satire is that it’s not quite as brilliant as South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. It’s still brilliant and bladder-failing funny.Countries appear to be under daily threat by terrorists. Thankfully, the U.S. is policing the world with the aid of Team America, an elite fighting force who show up, destroy the offenders and most of the surrounding landscape and offer a big “you’re welcome” while the citizens gaze upon them with a quizzical “who the hell called you” look. The focus is clearly on scruffy, towel-headed middle Easterns but the real mastermind, Kim Jong Il, may be lurking in his North Korean palace awaiting his opportunity to strike. Mr. Il gives the MPAA all the “R”’s they want (in place of his “L”’s.)
Team America needs an actor and a great one to infiltrate a terrorist cell and hopefully discover the info needed to prevent 9/11 times 1000, or as the running joke cleverly states, “911,000”. Their John Forsythe-esque leader, Spottswoode (voiced by Daran Norris) may have found one in Gary (Trey Parker), whose college resume included theater and foreign languages and is currently headlining Broadway’s “Lease: The Musical” (the theme song of which will slay anyone familiar with “Rent”.) Welcomed by open arms by everyone except the untrusting Joe (also Trey Parker), Gary also finds himself astutely recognizing what needs to be said in order to bed-down the comely and tragedy-stricken Lisa (Kristen Miller, my favorite She-Spy and regular on Parker & Stone’s criminally short-lived sitcom spoof, That’s My Bush.)
Despite a trailer announcing famous people who all will be really mad or Sean Penn writing an angry letter, it’s the bed-down moment that has brought the greatest attention to Team America and its ridiculous fight with the ratings board to get the film down from an “NC-17” to an “R”. Cut down nine times and faster than Dubya can ask “Need some wood?”, Gary & Lisa create one of the most outrageous, scream-laugh-inducing sequences of the year. The other is a gut-launching vomit scene that destroys the volumes put forth in Stand By Me and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.
Ironically, it’s the only Bush you’ll get close to seeing in the film as caricatures of the G.W. or any other political figures (save for Hans Blix) are left out. The boys leave the political posturing to the outspoken celebrities who see opinionated activism as their second profession. Are they informed anymore than Joe Citizen or do they just have a bigger stage and louder microphone? Liberal Hollywood takes a beating like we’ve never seen with Alec Baldwin leading the charge of others like Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofalo and a cast that would make Robert Altman envious.
The political slant on a first glance (or permanent bias) may tilt towards the conservative right. If that were the case, Parker & Stone would pick up the scale and throw it at Bill O’Reilly’s face. The left testicle certainly gets it where it hurts, but the right is just centimeters away and is skewed so perfectly that they may not even recognize it and go on to recommend the film as an endorsement of the current administration’s policies. Not with heroes inspired by flag-waving Jerry Bruckheimer films whose personal crises outweigh their firefights or a theme song triumphantly promoting our holy awesomeness (“America…FUCK YEAH!”)
Metaphoring the world as a collection of controlled puppets is only part of the joke. Even the art of puppetry gets skewed since it’s almost entirely impossible to make two of them fight convincingly or even walk off stage without flailing about. The idea that even the puppet masters, with all the power at their disposal, can’t even make their pawns do what they want speaks volumes at how politics can be an illusion if we just fought back from time-to-time.
No matter where your political stance or your heart lies in the current “war on terror”, the inspirational sum-up speech that Parker & Stone always conclude with couldn’t make more sense. Some guys might just use it as the perfect excuse to convince their lady for anal sex. But Republicans, Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives must be able to find some middle ground within it that makes sense to all of us. If not, then they are nothing but biased party pricks who would rather be stubborn than compromise.
Die-hard South Park fans may recognize the speech as only a few degrees off from the “I’m a Little Bit Country” episode where it’s preached that the warmongers and protestors need each other in order to preserve our country’s foundation of “saying one thing, and doing another.” (Even the hilarious “Montage” song is taken directly from the 80s teen spoof episode, “Asspen”.) Little things like these are momentary distractions while the satire hits for so many targets that it’s impossible to pin down any sense of point of view. Then again, that’s part of their point.It may seem hypocritical for two guys who have made their fortune in the industry to come down on others (even a friend like George Clooney who has done multiple voiceovers for them and passed along their “Spirit of Xmas” short to get them noticed), but Parker & Stone are not out to tell you how to think. Here’s what they have to say, make up your own minds or don’t. Team America takes us from jingoistic patriotism to the turnabout hatred inflicted towards us even from those we called our allies. All with a lot of jokes about cock. Hey, you have to make-up for not putting Dubya in the movie somehow. The laughs are monstrous, the songs are classic, the violence inspired and the next time someone asks for your two cents on the cost of freedom, just remind them that it actually costs $1.05.
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