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Team America: World Police Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/15/2004

I’m a Libertarian and a faithful supporter of anyone who comes from my home state of Colorado, so I am of course a hardcore supporter of “South Park” and their creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  I even enjoyed their worst movie, BASEketball (which wasn’t written or directed by Trey and Matt, and they even admit that it wasn’t their best movie), so I was eagerly anticipating their new movie, Team America: World Police, co-written by the guys and Pam Brady.  Before I get into the plot, the controversy over the ratings hassle and all of the people in Hollywood who are mad at the boys (specifically Sean Penn and Michael Moore), let me tell you now…this is easily one of the funniest movies of the year.  It might also possibly qualify (I think) for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars…and it is completely fronted by marionettes!

It starts during a lovely day in Paris, France.  French kids are playing, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and then…terrorists come out from nowhere.  They are carrying blinking briefcases filled with weapons of mass destruction and are terrorizing the crowd.  Suddenly, Team America, consisting of Chris (voiced by Stone), Lisa (voiced by Kristen Miller), Joe (voiced by Parker), Sarah (voiced by Masasa), and Carson (also voiced by Parker), show up in their helicopters (which all have a button called “Valmorphanize” to speed them up) and save the day.  They also manage to destroy the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, and Opera House in the process, but they do manage to kill all the terrorists.  After the successful defeat, Carson gives Lisa a wedding ring.  Unfortunately, one last terrorist pops up and kills Carson.  When the team gets home, it is up to their leader, Spottswoode (voiced by Daran Norris), to find a replacement.  He recruits a Broadway actor named Gary Johnston (voiced by Parker again), who was starring in a musical about AIDS called Lease.  They want Gary to use his acting skills in order to gather information on the terrorists.  Initially reluctant, Gary changes his mind, especially after talking to Lisa, a psychology major, with whom he shares an instant bond with the attractive team member.  He meets the whole team, all of which have different opinions of Gary.  Chris is a martial arts expert hates actors, but has reasons behind it; Sarah is a supposed clairvoyant who is jealous of Lisa; and Joe is a former all-star quarterback who likes Sarah, so he is jealous of Gary.  They all consult a supercomputer called I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. (voiced by Phil Hendrie), who supplies them with their Intel reports (that are occasionally wrong), and their headquarters are located in the heads of Mount Rushmore.  As the relationship progresses, Gary and Lisa fall hard for each other, lead to the infamous puppet sex scene.  Meanwhile, the mastermind behind the terrorists is Kim Jong Il (you guessed it…Parker.)  He is working with Alec Baldwin (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) and every liberal actor in the country to take down America.  Their group is named the Film Actors Guild (instead of the Screen Actors Guild, but if you put the acronym together, you might know what it stands for), and Baldwin’s two henchmen are Sean Penn and Tim Robbins (I’m still not sure who voices these characters yet.)  They set up a phony peace summit, with members populating the Guild, like Michael Moore (who becomes a human bomb), George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Matt Damon (who only says his name), Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Hunt, Janeane Garofalo, Liv Tyler, and more.  After dispensing with U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix (Parker yet once more), he plans to take over the world.  He leads Team America on a wild goose chase that has them follow the terrorists around the world to places like Cairo and Panama.  When Gary realizes that his acting may have been the cause of the problems, he is physically sick (literally…he throws up for what seems like two minutes.)  After doing a “loyalty test” (don’t ask), Gary is retrained by the team to take on Il and the Guild, and hopefully save the world.

The origin of this idea came when Trey and Matt were watching the old “Thunderbirds” show from the ‘60s and thought that it might be funny to spoof an overblown action flick from today using marionettes.  They wanted to do a puppet version of The Day After Tomorrow, but they didn’t have the rights.  To make things worse, Jonathan Frakes (from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame) beat them to the punch with a live action version of Thunderbirds (which has only grossed $6.8 million as of this writing) and was a critical failure (even by me.)  They decided to go ahead and make a spoof of the ‘80s over-the-top action flicks that were (and still are) produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.  They also included a few ‘90s Michael Bay flicks, like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, the latter of which receives a special skewering in the form of a song about how the movie sucked, and Gary makes it into a love song to Lisa.  You can plainly see the strings on the marionettes (though the attention to detail was funny), and it made me cry with laughter seeing Lisa attempting to point to Gary on his chest, but was restricted by the strings.  Everyone else seemed to fight each other and bounce around when they ran, and some attack tigers were actually real domestic cats that attacked the puppets.

What resulted at first was a goofy, offensive, lewd, and an extremely funny movie.  It was also unintentionally political, but we’ll get into that later.  The first controversy was over the R rating.  With all of the bloody puppet violence in the movie, the only thing that the MPAA objected to was a silly sex scene in the middle.  It had to be re-edited nine times!  When I saw it, I thought it was very funny and not erotic in the slightest.  Imagine a Barbie doll and a G.I. Joe doll getting it on, without genitalia and clearly visible hinges.  I had to agree with Trey and Matt in an interview that the scene looked more like something that nine-year-olds would have done, but now it just looks like a one-night stand.  There is no romance…and c’mon…it’s just puppets!

The next controversy was over the politics and the backlash from the left.  Trey and Matt are intelligent filmmakers who decide what they think is funny, and they really don’t care what other people think of their movies.  They wanted to burst the bubble of some stars’ over bloated egos and bring them back to earth.  Sean Penn is portrayed as a sympathizer for Iraq, because it is always sunny day and the rivers flow with chocolate.  It all started when they made fun of P. Diddy’s “Vote or Die!” campaign to encourage young people to vote (“If you don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no shame in not voting,” Stone commented in a Rolling Stone interview.)  Penn accused them of being apathetic about voting, despite what he thought about the movie.  The boys fired back, saying that if your opinion is based on a stupid movie, even a movie like Fahrenheit 9/11, you really shouldn’t be voting if you are that uninformed.  I really don’t want to get into politics, but I have to agree.  I’m more interested in seeing the movie, no matter how childish it was, because I am a fan of the filmmakers, not the political opinions of the actors portrayed in it.  I have to admire Arnold Schwarzenegger…while I’d never vote for him, at least he made a conscious decision to leave acting behind and become a politician.  If you want to express your political opinions, I totally support it, but not at the expense of the work.  I think that it alienates people more than it informs them, and then you end up only preaching to the already converted.  I think that Trey and Matt just wanted to make a potty-mouthed movie, and unfortunately, it clashed with the election, since we are all tired of it by now.  I know you may have strong opinions from both sides, check this movie out for yourself and decide.

Too bad Moore had to drag them with him to make a statement.  Trey and Matt were mad at Moore when he included them in his movie Bowling for Columbine (of which I have seen several inaccuracies of since), followed by a “South Park”-style cartoon that they didn’t draw.  They were mad at him, so he was made the butt of their jokes.  If he really had a sense of humor, he wouldn’t have done such a despicable thing.  It’s too bad…I’ve lost almost all respect for the man.

Speaking of the movie itself, you should really see this without the kids.  It is adult humor that is not meant for kids, so I plead with you…get a babysitter.  The freedom that we enjoy in this country requires us to be responsible parents, and if we have to rely on the government, it’s like one of the songs in the movie…“Freedom Isn’t Free” (sung in the background with an overly twangy country singer, which was actually in the “South Park” TV show, along with the song “Montage.”)  If we don’t want to be a dictatorship, we need to accept responsibility for our actions regarding our kids.

Anyway, please…enough of this political talk.  I am an entertainment fan, not a political commentator.  I don’t want to sound like one of those people I’m laughing at in the movie, or I might end up getting a lot of hypocritical hate mail.  Just check out Team America: World Police.  Enjoy it as a film and not as a statement.  It doesn’t even mention George W. Bush or John Kerry anywhere in the movie…it’s an equal opportunity offender for both sides.  It’s just meant to be one of those popcorn flicks that I actually still love, and as I said before…it’s just a goofy puppet movie!

Get the soundtrack featuring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and the rest of the cast singing songs from the movie:

Buy this CD at

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Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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