Team America: World Police (2004)
“Putting The “F” Back In Freedom.”
Director: Trey Parker
Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Elle Russ
Synopsis: Popular Broadway actor Gary Johnston is recruited by the elite counter-terrorism organization Team America: World Police. As the world begins to crumble around him, he must battle with terrorists, celebrities and falling in love.
Clearly inspired by Gerry Anderson’s iconic 1960s TV show Thunderbirds, Team America: World Police is a hit-and-miss (mostly miss) comedy that, perhaps, aims for the satirical. To be honest, it’s difficult to say for sure, because most of the juvenile humour puts one in mind of some insolent kid squeezing his crotch at whoever is unfortunate enough to cross his path.
Team America is a crack troop of defenders of democracy, jetting around the world to foil the plans of mostly turban-wearing terrorists. However, the consequences of their successful missions to these different nations are usually the complete destruction of the culture of the country in question. The point is illustrated in the opening sequence, set in Paris, in which they manage to destroy the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de triomphe while killing three Muslim terrorists, and that’s about as subtle as the humour gets as far as satire is concerned. The only other area in which the movie hits its mark is in the way it emulates the crass dialogue to be found in the kind of action movies that serve as the template for the story here.
If it wasn’t for the puppets the whole thing would probably be a monumental bore. Although South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone work hard to replicate the look and feel of Thunderbirds, the faces of their puppets are much more sophisticated than Anderson’s. Sometimes their expressions look almost eerily human, and it‘s a little unsettling to see these recognisable expressions on essentially inanimate objects.
What is admirable about Team America: World Police is the way in which it doesn’t shy away from criticising America and it’s apparently gung ho attitude towards the war on terrorism. While it never stops short of also poking fun at the terrorist leaders, it does so by creating broad caricatures and giving them funny accents, but its implicit criticism of America is more grounded in reality, and so deserving of more attention. True, it tells us nothing we don’t already know about how America’s international attitudes are perceived by the rest of the world, but it’s fair to say that if the movie had been made by a country other than the US it would have probably provoked massive amounts of scorn and condemnation from the leaders of the country and many of its citizens. It sort of puts you in mind of those stereotypical blacks who consider the word ‘nigger’ to be theirs and theirs alone…