Team America: World Police (2004)
Directed by Trey Parker

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * *

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Spottswoode, the head of Team America, a group of commandoes charged with combatting terrorism and willing to cause more destruction than their enemies would have brought about in order to stop those dastardly fiends, recruits a Broadway actor to help in the infiltration of a terrorist organization that, he has learned, is planning something especially big with the backing of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

Trey Parker's Team America: World Police is a frequently hilarious if ultimately somewhat unsatisfying film.

Even if it were a failure in every other way, the movie would, nonetheless, still be able to retain the viewer's attention throughout its duration and make him laugh again and again simply because it is so amusing to look at. Most obviously, Team America is given a weird charm by its being performed exclusively by marionettes similar in appearance to those used in Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds. As goofy as the puppets are, the world they inhabit is just as silly. The heroes are, for example, shown to enter their hidden base in Mount Rushmore through the presidents' mouths and crania, to fight panthers that are played by black house cats, to fly wonderfully silly toy airplanes, and so on and so on.

Fortunately, many of the routines performed in the movie's individual scenes are also riotously funny. At different points, the director reveals his heroes destroying Paris in their efforts to save that city, performing plastic surgery on one character in order to transform him into a racist caricature of a Middle Eastern man, engaging in various sexual acts, although, being puppets, they do not actually have genitals, and much more. Parker really has packed his movie with side-splitting moments. It is truly hard to believe that anyone would fail to laugh upon watching Kim Jong-il singing about his loneliness, Spottswoode compelling Gary to perform oral sex upon him in order to show his commitment to Team America's cause, any number of absurdly and deliciously violent action sequences, and the ridiculously melodramatic romantic attachments and rivalries existing among the various protagonists.

As entertaining as many of its individual scenes are, Team America, as a whole, is still rather disappointing. Being a satire, the movie's success ultimately depends upon its ability to make the viewer laugh at those it is mocking, and, to do that, the director's own position really cannot come across as more foolish than the objects of his derision. Regrettably, the ideas underpinning Parker's work are painfully juvenile. Not only are they silly, but they are unsubtly spelled out for the moviegoer by Gary in a speech that character gives near the film's conclusion.

"Pussies don't like dicks," he says, "because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes, assholes that just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way, but the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is: They fuck too much or fuck when it isn't appropriate, and it takes a pussy to show them that. But sometimes, pussies can be so full of shit that they become assholes themselves, because pussies are an inch and a half away from assholes. I don't know much about this crazy, crazy world, but I do know this: If you don't let us fuck this asshole, we're going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit!"

So far as I am able to tell from the general tone of the film, its presentations of its characters and events, and its conclusion, the speech Gary gives does accurately represent Parker's beliefs as these are reflected in this work. If the viewer thinks that the opinions therein expressed are credible, he may find the overall satire of Team America to be successful. If he finds this perspective somewhat foolish, he may be less than impressed. Perhaps I am mistaken in my ascription of these views to the director and he is poking fun at such unsophisticated perspectives just as he ridicules so much else in his work, but I am afraid that I am probably correct.

Parker's sustained mockery of the activities of liberal Hollywood celebrities is, for example, largely animated by this view of the world. It is, consequently, dreadfully tedious and trite. While I will certainly admit that the pretense of some vain multimillionaire or another that he really cares about anyone other than himself is a worthy subject of satire, as is the superficiality of such a person's espoused beliefs, which almost invariably come across merely as fashionable platitudes, Parker seems more concerned with presenting these moneyed individuals as being representative of liberal opinion, and it is this that he generally mocks by mocking Hollywood's elite.

I am sad to say that I ultimately found much of the movie disappointing as a result of the ideas underpinning it. These were often sillier than those Parker was making fun of. That said, there are so many sequences in Team America that are funny that the film is still worth watching. Actually, it is one of the funniest movies I have encountered in a long time.

Review by Keith Allen

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