Team America: World Police

written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady

directed by Trey Parker

starring Trey Parker and Matt Stone as the voices of various puppets


review by Stephen Notley

Team America: World Police, the new puppet action movie from South Park guys Trey Parker and Matt Stone, is of course hilarious. But be warned: Team America isn't the superb brilliance of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, an essentially perfect lancing of America's prudishness and culture of irresponsibility. No, Team America is sloppier, more slapdash and rushed, getting its jokes from lower sources.

Toilet humor is the thing here. Or rather, puppet toilet humor. There's simply something about puppets that makes profanity and gore and other gross stuff ten times funnier than normal, and Parker and Stone know it. Whether it's puppet team member Chris snarling "Tell him to stay the fuck away from me" at newbie puppet Gary or puppet Sean Penn getting his arm chewed off, you just wanna laugh at these goddamn puppets. They're mesmerizing, sometimes looking ridiculous and clumsy, especially when they're walking, yet other times they're powerfully expressive, puppet Gary looking down into his puppet arms in tormented grief. You may have heard about a big hardcore puppet sex scene. That's a lie, as there are none of the gynecological closeups of true hardcore --though one puppet certainly does fuck another puppet all over the room at one point.

The music, as well, demands attention. Like the South Park movie, Team America is studded with gag songs, stuff like "Freedom Ain't Free" and "Everybody has AIDS"; I I couldn't stop humming "America! Fuck Yeah!" to myself as I left the theater. And not only are the songs great but the incidental score is by Harry Gregson-Williams (Antz, Shrek 2) and it's eerily evocative; there's one scene where puppet Kim Jong Il describes his vision of a world of chaos that sends genuine chill down actual spine, puppets or no.

So the movie is funny. But what about the *political* message? What does Team America: World Police have to tell us about our terrored times? Bizarrely for the same writing team that created the short-lived Dubya lampoon "That's My Bush", Team America ultimately stands as an endorsement of modern rah-rah-rah kick-ass-and-don't-bother-sorting-it-out Bush America.

See, Team America breaks the world down into pussies, dicks and assholes. Pussies think we can all get along and negotiate and play nice. Pussies don't like dicks, because dicks fuck pussies. But what the pussies don’t realize is that there are assholes out there too, and you need dicks to fuck assholes. Get it?

The movie lays this out in some considerable detail, and it's a compelling thesis. Unfortunately, Team America is a little lopsided in how and to whom it applies its criticism. The "dicks", that is to say modern Bushite America, well, they're the heroes, Eiffel Tower destroying, Cairo-trashing Team America. The movie cheerfully admits that dicks are reckless, arrogant, stupid and dangerous but then kinda shrugs and goes "What are y'gonna do about it? We need dicks to fuck assholes," and leaves it at that. Meanwhile by far the greatest portion of the film's savagery is targeted at whiny Hollywood types like Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Michael Moore, etc., etc., etc., all who clearly fall into the "pussy" camp. Part of this can be seen as two guys making an entirely actorless puppet movie taking the opportunity to give a big "fuck you" to actors and Hollywood in general, and certainly limousine liberal actors are worthy of some scorn, but are they really the primary people to blame? Are they the ones who most deserve judgment to the tune of blowing the tops of their heads off and so on? Are they the ones that got us into this mess? I don't think so.

It's kinda distressing that Team America is so hysterically entertaining and politically regressive at the same time, giving aid and comfort to all the assholes of the world who think they're just dicks. It's still hella worth watching but dammit, couldn't they have said something *useful*?