Saturday, January 22, 2005

Team America

Team America: World Police
Directed by Trey Parker
2004, Rated R
5 stars

When one thinks of cartoons, Disney usually comes to mind. Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, all the classics. Perhaps one might also think of the Saturday morning kid shows, or even the Cartoon Network channel. These types of shows and movies are mainly geared toward children. Then came The Simpsons, Family Guy, and perhaps the most off color and hilarious of them all: South Park. The creators of South Park proved to the world that cartoons do not only have to be cute, but that they can also be politically incorrect, at times disgusting, and still be hysterically funny. Now the creators of South Park have turned to another form of entertainment. Trey Parker’s new film, Team America: World Police, is done completely with marionettes. That’s right—it’s a two hour long puppet show for adults.

Team America holds nothing back. Nobody goes unnoticed, meaning everybody gets jabbed. Every ethnic group is stereotyped, every profession is picked on, every world leader, every political group, everything distinctly American, everything is hit upon. Most of the jokes are aimed at America, and its stereotypical ignorance and arrogance when it comes to world affairs. Whenever a scene is set in a different country, the information on the screen not only informs the audience of the name of the country, but also its distance from America, satirizing the American notion that we are the center of the universe. The team of ace fighter marionettes that form Team America also have no respect for the cultures or national treasures around them. They are only concerned with the destruction of terrorism, because, of course, the terrorists hate everyone in America, because we are free, and the terrorists hate freedom. Therefore, the terrorists will stop at nothing to kill all Americans, or anyone else who is free, because that is what terrorists do! Team America firmly believes in this ideal, failing to recognize that in their quest to eradicate terrorism, they themselves may really become the terrorists.

Team America doesn’t just make fun of America, however. Nearly every country, or at least every ethnic group, is satirized in one way or another. The voice cast is small, and most of the voices are actually done by Trey Parker. This provides a great opportunity for making fun of languages. The botching of dialects is in fact one of the funnier parts of the film. Middle Eastern languages, when spoken in the film, mainly consist of “Jihad jihad!! Mohammed! Djerkajerka!!” while Spanish is reduced to “no me gusta, no me gusta!” But perhaps the funniest handling of foreign affairs comes with the portrayal of Kim Jong Il, the tyrannical dictator of North Korea. Kim Jong Il is actually a major character in the film, and even gets the only solo musical number. When he talks, he speaks in English, but with the stereotypical Asian language mistake of replacing l’s with r’s. His despotic practices are also embellished and flaunted, as well as his egomaniacal personality. So when Hans Blix of the UN comes to warn him that the United Nations will send a nasty letter if Kim Jong Il will not stop marketing nuclear weapons, Kim Jong addresses him as Hans Brix, and dumps him into a shark tank.

While all these parodies and not-so-subtle jabs are hilarious in themselves, what really makes this movie is the music. The lyrics of each song cover almost as much as the film in humor when regarding American attitude. The songs range from country western to bad 80’s style theme songs, but listen closely to the lyrics—they’ll make you laugh even more than the jerky antics of the mishandled puppets.

Team America covers all the bases. Along with world leaders and national figures also come political activists, like Michael Moore, and well-known Hollywood actors, like Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, and Matt Damon. The marionettes are surprisingly expressive, sometimes even more so than the celebrities they’re meant to portray. Warning, however: if you are easily offended by any of the above mentioned, this is not the film for you. The R rating is well earned with violence, sex, and bad language. The sex scene, although done with anatomically inept puppets, almost earned the film an NC-17 rating. On the other hand, if you have an open mind and a good sense of humor, then this is an excellently hilarious film. No strings attached.

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