Team America is a film that has audiences divided across the globe. Coming from the creators of South Park - Matt Stone and Trey Parker - this does not come as much of a surprise. But I think that occasionally their work is not fully appreciated for what it represents. South Park spends a great deal of time revelling in childish profanity and toilet humour but also - in a similar way to the Simpsons - it takes serious shots at everything and anything in society. Sometimes this can seem infantile, sometimes shamefully hilarious, but often it cuts right to what a great deal of the public actually thinks. Team America is the ultimate example of extreme when it comes to political correctness but, better still, it is the perfect example of 'animation' bringing us something that could never be done with real actors and real sets. Nobody would have agreed to back a live action movie this controversial, that criticises everything on every level. No actor would have agreed to participate in it, and in some ways the point was to mock actors as well, so it is much better to have puppets. Not only does it mock actors and stalwart Hollywood action films at every opportunity, mainly anything by Michael Bay, but it also takes more serious shots at America as a whole and its war on terrorism. However, rather than just put forward arguments - like many good but all too dry documentaries do - this movie entertains you by visually showing you exactly what is wrong with Hollywood and, more importantly, America. Ok, so it goes to extremes, but perhaps that is just what is needed to juxtapose the apathy that many people feel towards politics in the current climate.
You may ask, how does Team America do all of this? Well from a story point of view, it plays out almost entirely like a standard Jerry Bruckheimer film - which is exactly what was intended. Kicking off with an explosive scene in the heart of Paris, we are introduced to Team America, a small group of operatives who basically police the world in a bid to stop terrorism by any means necessary - not caring who or what they blow up to get the job done. In a bid to infiltrate a group of terrorists in BakaLakaDakaStad, they recruit a new team member, Gary who is a 'top gun' actor - the best of the best of the best, with honours. With his help they manage to identify some terrorists in Egypt and blow up a pyramid and the Sphinx. So it goes on, much to the disdain of not only the countries they invade but also their own country. Not only is the story bitingly up-to-date but the characters are simply fantastic - perfectly designed to mock their human counterparts. All of the Team America unit are stereotypical characters pulled straight from Hollywood action movies - like the angry gung-ho 'martial arts' expert, Chris - and the individuals they meet in each country are all clichéd characters: intentionally taken from an American viewpoint - mirroring the depictions of the places they inhabit. Back home, the mockingly titled Film Actor's Guild (F.A.G.) provides for many pot shots at big Hollywood stars, not least a hilarious, although seemingly unjustified poke at Matt Damon. But by far the best character is the representation of Kim Jong Il, someone who few of us know a great deal about in real life. Portrayed as part Bond villain, part world terrorist and part entertainer it only makes it funnier to see a North Korean dictator mocked so cuttingly.
It is simply amazing that a movie like this can cross so many invisible borders of political correctness to give audiences what they really want and say what many of us feel. We should all be able to mock dictators, criticise the leaders of our own countries and especially be allowed to voice opinions on America policing the world. Some might fail to believe it but this is simply making history in terms of cinema. People around the world are going to see the Hollywood blockbuster, terrorists, Michael Moore, Kim Jong Il and America itself mocked superbly - as we have never seen before. Many will remember the film for puppet sex, projectile vomiting and the excellent montage song, but I also remember it for being bang on the money about what so many people around the world truly feel.
I had the great fortune of reviewing the uncut unrated extended edition of Team America that has some extra puppet sex - some of which is simply, for want of a better word, gross - more swearing and more torture. It is different from the theatrical versions both in the U.S. and the U.K. and is definitely worth choosing over the R-rated version.
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