Team America: World Police is the latest feature film from the creators of South Park. This is a mock action blockbuster featuring puppets which pours scorn on American claims that they are bringing freedom to the world through their "War on Terror". Trey Parker and Matt Stone are pulling no punches as they send up absolutely everyone with their own brand of hilarious satire.
Parker and Stone clearly aren´t scared of anyone; least of all the sue-happy stars of Hollywood and they have received lots of complaints about this film. They slag off the left and right pretty equally and scatter a liberal dose of toilet humour in with the clever political observations. What results is the kind of film which should manage to insult people from all backgrounds. The kind of film which produces the odd gasp of disbelief from the audience as they mutter to companions "how did they get away with that?"
This is the strength of Parker and Stone they say the forbidden things on people´s minds, the things people try so hard not to believe. Of course not all of the humour is clever and in particular here many of the jokes revolve around the crappy movement of the puppets or have something to do with sex or bodily functions.
The obvious inspiration for this film is the old Thunderbirds series. Team America similarly have a range of transforming vehicles and live in a hidden base (inside Mount Rushmore) and they are out to save the world. The difference between their stated aim and what they actually do is beautifully portrayed here as the Team destroy city after city with wild abandon in their desperate attempts to "protect" us all from terrorists. This echoes the part the US plays in the world, casting themselves as world police out to help everyone and then bombing innocent people and wondering why no one thanks them for it.
While the government takes a bit of a bashing there is no escape for the liberals speaking out against them, in particular the Hollywood actors and actresses who try to throw their political opinions into the ring. The number sent up here is astounding including Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, Helen Hunt, Samuel Jackson and so on. They all work for the Alec Baldwin run organisation F.A.G. (Film Actor´s Guild).
The true villain of the piece is the North Korean leader Kim Il Jong who is basically another incarnation of Cartman and every bit as funny. This movie also sends up other famous films from Top Gun to the vomit inducing Pearl Harbour. Kim Il Jong is portrayed as a Bond style baddie, the Arab terrorists in the bar in Cairo are recognisable from Luke´s first visit to Mos Eisley in Star Wars and their effortless deconstruction of the Jerry Bruckheimer brand of action crap is truly brilliant. They know the cliched formula inside out and so they are perfectly placed to send it up.
Parker and Stone also do the majority of the voices for the characters and they are supremely talented at this having honed the talent from years of producing South Park cartoons. They also seem to love songs and there are some great ones in this film, especially the ballad which sees the main character crooning about how he misses his girl almost as much as the makers of Pearl Harbour missed the point.
Not everything here is new and fans of South Park will recognise some of the gags from recent episodes. The montage song was simply too good not to add and I guess much of the audience for this film won´t have seen this before. This film is also every bit as crude and vulgar as South Park as Parker and Stone prove they will not compromise their comedy for a mainstream audience.
The puppet work is deliberately bad and this made the fight scenes especially funny as the two puppets dance around each other with Matrix style action music blaring away the whole time. The puppets themselves are really nicely done and the sets are very impressively modelled. I guess this is where most of their budget went and you have to admire their ability to raise money for a film like this without compromising on the kind of comedy they do.
Team America: World Police is a nice piece of comedy satire which can´t fail to upset a lot of people. It is worth remembering that Parker and Stone aren´t out to convert people politically, they don´t appear to take any side in this preferring to slag off everything and everyone equally. The result is a very funny piece of satire and whatever else you could say about this film it is certainly unique amongst the cinema listings.
Parker and Stone are a very talented double act and although I hope they never stop making South Park it is always interesting to see what else they can produce. Their excursions into the world of feature films have been pretty mixed up to now - BASEketball and Cannibal: The Musical were both terrible but the South Park movie had its moments and this film works much better by adhering to the same style of comedy.