Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: October 15, 2004
Directed by: Trey Parker
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
What happens when the creators of the animated television series “South Park” get a bigger budget to make a film? In the case of “Team America: World Police,” it’s a crude and immature film that somehow keeps viewers laughing for hours. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the minds behind the film “BASEketball” and “South Park” poke fun at everything Americans love, including jingles and celebrities.
The film opens in Paris, showing Team America fighting terrorists. Viewers quickly learn that Team America is an anti-terrorism task force led by Spottswoode (Daran Norris, “The Replacements”). Spottswoode makes the unusual decision to bring Gary Johnston (Trey Parker, “Orgazmo”), a popular Broadway performer, into the group. Team America needs Gary for his first-class acting skills and because they need help bringing down Kim Jong II (also Parker).
Spottswoode, Gary, and the rest of the crew head to Cairo, hoping to get a jumpstart on their mission. With Gary by their side, they hope to convince the North Korean dictator that American celebrities want his help. Gary can sound like everyone from Ethan Hawke to George Clooney, and with his help, Team America just might get a handle on the situation.
Stone and Parker are like two junior high students who decided to make a film when their parents went out of town, but in “Team America: World Police,” their form of potty humor works. They manage to satire everything people in the theaters love, including the theme song. The jingle, which has a few curse words tossed in for good measure, plays so often that some viewers will find themselves humming it weeks after seeing the film.
“Team America: World Police” also pokes fun at the way people tend to worship celebrities. Stone does the voices of Ethan Hawke, Danny Glover, and George Clooney, but it’s Parker who carries the film. His impressions of Sean Penn, Matt Damon, Michael Moore, and Tim Robbins sound so realistic that some might watch the credits to see if those celebrities actually lent their voices to the film. Parker doesn’t shy away from poking fun at female celebrities either. He also does the voices of Susan Sarandon and Helen Hunt. Other actors pop up to portray Samuel L. Jackson, Alec Baldwin, and other celebs.
“Team America: World Police” makes it clear that everything is worthy of a joke. When viewers first meet Gary, he’s starring in the Broadway show “Lease,” which is clearly a riff on “Rent.” To make that even clearer, he immediately launches into the song “Everybody’s Got AIDS!” The film also pokes fun at country music star Toby Keith, the United Nations, and Hollywood blockbusters. It even has a few scenes of referential humor, showing that Parker and Stone know the film is ridiculous. When the creators of a film can laugh about it, the film clearly has something special.
The humor in the film starts in the opening scene, and the laughs never stop. Whether it’s a romantic scene between two marionettes or jokes about the Film Actors Guild, almost everyone watching the film will enjoy some laughs. Parker and Stone gained fame for their animated show, but in this film, they decided to use actual puppets, which add even more laughs. The way the marionettes seem to dance as they walk down the street and the way the heads bob during so-called serious scenes will keep viewers in stitches.
Some of the best laughs come when the film introduces a new celebrity. Matt Damon’s marionette is easily one of the funniest in the film. The Oscar-nominated actor wisely turned down a role in the film, possibly because Parker and Stone show him as a lumbering buffoon who can barely walk without help. Sean Penn doesn’t get off easy either. The film portrays the actor, who frequently speaks out against various issues, as a combination of meandering idiot and slick mobster. While Penn’s marionette looks just like the actor does in many of his films, when he opens his mouth and starts talking, viewers will roll their eyes and remember how much he annoys them in real life.
“Team America: World Police” is not a film for everyone. Even those who love “South Park” or its big-screen adaptation “South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut” might find some faults with the film. It spends a little too long showing how Parker and Stone feel about different celebrities, and some of the jokes are a little too crude for some viewers. With its referential humor, Hollywood insider jokes, and hilarious songs, “Team America: World Police” shows that Parker and Stone aren’t just one-trick ponies. Anyone who thinks the duo should stick to “South Park” should watch the film and try not to laugh.