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"Team America: World Police" Review


Title: Team America: World Police
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris
Written by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady
Directed by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Rating: R for graphic, crude & sexual humor, violent images & strong language; all involving puppets.

Review by Stephen Silver
After seven years of producing some of America's astutely raunchy satire with their animated "South Park" franchise, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have branched into a new medium- puppetry- for their new film, "Team America: World Police." While the film is hilarious, and unquestionably the best work they've ever done outside of "South Park," it can't quite match the satirical or comical heights of 1999's "South Park" movie.
Probably the most comprehensive satire yet produced of the War on Terror, "Team America" is packed wall-to-wall with gags, most of which work but some of which don't quite hit the mark. The film's politics, like that of "South Park," are what I like to call "horny libertarian"- opposed to self-righteous conservatism, but even more repelled by sanctimonious liberalism. This may be why Alec Baldwin figures prominently as a character, yet George W. Bush does not.
Indeed, in "Team America"'s universe there is no president, military, or any other government apparatus, and American power is solely represented by the titular team, a five-person paramilitary force that fights terrorists wherever they may hide. At first the terrorists are the garden-variety al-Qaeda types, until North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il- highly dependent on "Asian lisp" jokes- emerges as the main villain, backed by a coterie of Hollywood actors that includes Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, and Michael Moore.
But really, the film's true target is not so much any political figure but rather producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who prior to his recent bout with semi-respectability was the king of shoot-'em-up testosterone actioners from "Top Gun" to "Con Air" to "Pearl Harbor." Various musical and technical cues are brilliantly lifted from the Bruckheimer films, though the subtletly of the film's anti-Jerry message is sort of undercut by an anti-Michael Bay musical number called "Pearl Harbor Sucked And I Miss You."
Yes, "Team America" has songs, and while funny, they don't quite have the brilliant edge of the "South Park" movie's soundtrack, which simultaneously parodied just about every convention of both Broadway and Disney musicals. Those songs were written by multiple-Tony-winning composer Marc Shaiman, although in "Team America" Parker did the honors himself, and the songs, while funny, are quite a bit more simple. The highlights are a parody of "Rent," as well as a repeated theme song that recalls a more vulgar version of the "G.I. Joe" theme.
The most impressive aspects of the film are the rapid-fire style of the jokes, and a few standout comic sequences: the two best parts are a puppet sex scene that rivals the one in the musical "Avenue Q," and an absolutely hilarious, extended sequence of a character vomiting. The puppet work is all masterfully done, and the script's references to other films (especially "Top Gun" and "Star Wars") are inspired.
Not so impressive? While the Hollywood bits involving "Baldwin" are hilarious, most of the "actors" are given nothing much of note to do except die grotesquely, and other than Baldwin and Sean Penn, no effort is made to make the puppets look and sound like the real actors. And since when was Samuel L. Jackson a garden variety Hollywood lefty? And a few of the running jokes are pretty much DOA, such as one character constantly propositioning another for oral sex.
Still, the film is redeemed by a great speech reducing all matters of geopolitics to "dicks, pussies, and assholes"- had the film been released two years ago, perhaps Iraq would've unfolded differently.
While not quite the classic some were expecting, "Team America" is a super-creative, one-of-a-kind comedy that's not likely to be replicated anytime soon, and very likely to emerge as part of the DVD collection perennial/constantly-quoted pantheon.

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