Directed by Trey Parker
2004, Rated R, 98 minutes
Geniuses of satire Matt Stone and Trey Parker bring big laughs to the big screen with a cast of square-jawed marionettes who fight terror by way of North Korea’s Kim Jong II in a relevantly childish reading of “freedom.” Inspired by the ’60s British television series “Thunderbirds,” Stone and Parker use Jerry Bruckheimer’s action movie plot template to parody America’s bullying military with one-third-scale puppets that give new meaning to “wooden acting.” The ridicule hits a fever pitch anytime the comic duo’s brilliantly phrased songs modify the puppet action sequences (you’ll be chanting “Team America, Fuck Yeah” for days). Kim Jong II exploits the Film Actors Guild (including Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, Samuel Jackson and Sean Penn) for his evil schemes while the Team America World Police recruit a Broadway actor to infiltrate an Iraqi terror cell. This all-out adult satire pulls no punches and takes no prisoners.
Sean Penn sent Matt Stone and Trey Parker a personal letter in which he berated them for encouraging young people not to vote if they don’t know anything about the issues or about the candidates. Some irony lies in the fact that Penn had not seen the movie before he sent off his missive that allegedly stated: “I remember several times getting a few giggles out of your humor. I remember not being bothered as you traded on my name among others to appear witty, above it all, and likeable to your crowd. I never mind being of service, in satire and silliness. I do mind when anybody who doesn’t have a child, doesn’t have a child at war, or isn’t or won’t be in harm’s way themselves, is encouraging that there’s no shame in not voting if you don’t know what you’re talking about. You guys are talented young guys but alas, primarily young guys. All best, and a sincere fuck you, Sean Penn.”
A larger irony lies in Penn’s overstated defense of “children” before turning the tables on himself by attempting to insult Stone and Parker for being “primarily young guys.” Upon close examination, you realize that Penn’s ham-fisted letter actually supports Stone and Parker’s assertion. Penn’s comment, about Stone and Parker not being in “harm’s way,” ignores the endless personal attacks and threats that the purposefully non-glamorous duo have suffered as a result of their comic contributions.
The greatest gift that Matt Stone and Trey Parker possess is their inexhaustibly childish and brash approach to big issues. Although they’ve said in interviews that “Team America: World Police” mocks terrorists rather than the war on terror, the film rightfully does off-handedly ridicule Bush’s “war on terror.” It slyly acknowledges the truth of multinational global corporate oppression: that there is no and can be no such thing as a war on terror, just as there can be no war on the desperation that drives ostracized people from committing any act of abysmal desperation. When our puppet commandos kick off “Team America” by killing a group of Muslim terrorists in Paris, they consequently destroy the Louvre killing French civilians like so much inevitable collaterial damage. It’s no accident that the French are the first to suffer at the hand of America’s fraternity-minded group of mercenary heroes, complete with ammo belts hung across their chests to preclude any confusion about the heroes’ agenda.
The liberal doses of crude vulgarity that Stone and Parker smear over everything they do is a keen equalizer that goes much deeper than party lines or class striations. The purely filthy satire enters your central nervous system in coded systems of pop culture references that expand in your sub conscious. It’s a thoroughly integrated brand of intoxicating anti-propaganda that sparks from everything you already know on an intrinsic level. Think of it as comedy by osmosis.
No quarter is given to corporate shills like George Bush or John Kerry, or to puppet enemies like Osama or Hussein. Instead the filmmakers go right for the jugular of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il as a lonely dictator baddie who feeds UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix to a shark. That scene won’t stick in your memory as much as the much-debated hilarious puppet sex scene, but the film’s final explanation of the world’s problems as based on assholes, Pussies and dicks, surely will. CV