|Review: "Team America:World Police" or, Freedom may cost a buck o' five but I had to pay $6.50
||[Oct. 17th, 2004|04:02 pm]
|||||Elliott Smith - Figure 8 (album), Pearl Jam - Yield (album)||]|
Team America: World Police, Paramount Pictures, 2004
Directed by Trey Parker
Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Pam Brady
Rating: 4 out of 10
The four guys come across an old man on a telephone poll.
1st Guy: Hey old man, whatcha doin' up there?
Old Man: Uhh, I'm not sure
3rd Guy: Need any help getting down?
Old Man: Naah, I don't think so.
4th Guy: Stupid bastard.
3rd Guy: No worse than us. He's all action and no theory. We're all theory and no action.
(from Richard Linklater's Waking Life)
Merriam-Webster describes satire as 1 : a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn and 2 : trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly. Taken as such, Team America: World Police, the latest barrage of irritated sophomoric wit and hostility from South Park masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone, succeeds on a very basic level.
However, the film does not deliver a focused message.
The film opens in Paris, France. A child scampers about a city square and bumps into three intimidating men, dressed in Arab garb, one of whom is carrying a brief case. Enter Team America, a crack taskforce of freedom fighters battling terrorism everywhere it is found. The scene unfolds in typical action movie fashion, replete with explosions and martial arts...and the simultaneous destruction of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De' Triomphe. Did I mention that all of the characters are puppets?
After loosing a team member during the Paris mission, it is imperative that a replacement be found. The team commander, Spottswoode (Darren Norris), is sent to New York to recruit an actor starring in Broadway's hit musical, Lease: The Musical. Enter Gary (Parker), who Spottswoode deems the "perfect weapon", an actor who majored in "acting and world languages".
The plot unfolds in a fairly straightforward, cliched action movie formula including love triangles, sex scenes, and the ever present questioning of and eventual acceptance of the hero's destiny. These were not my problems with the film. No, the problems that I had stemmed from an apparent attempt to insult and ridicule everything possible; from the immature (the needless mocking of Asian and Arab accents) to the admittedly clever (poking fun at the activism of actors). In their attempt to present an idea, the proceedings become marred with the type of unfocused, free floating hostility that dulls otherwise incisive social commentary (the same problem that has plagued George Calrin's stand-up material for the last 6 years).
A prime example of trying to do too much: the sex scene (yes, a sex scene involving puppets). Parker had to edited, actually edit, parts of this particular scene in order to receive an R rating. Apparently, there were "golden showers" aplenty left to cause a flash flood on the cutting room floor. The scene that made it into the film had no point. But, do sex scenes really ever have a point in a film, especially an action film? But, is that supposed to be the question? I really can't say, because the film raises so many "what the hell are they trying to say?!?!?!" questions that...at the end of it all, I just had to throw up my hands in frustration to forget about it.
Parts that I actually enjoyed:
- The original songs. They were probably the highlight of the film for me, especially Parker's take on the patriotic country anthem (which is referenced in my subject line). The Team America theme plays like the G.I. Joe theme song that an eighth grader would have written. Then there is the one song which states "I miss you - like Michael Bay missed the point with Pearl Harbor.
- The patriotic montage. This part of the film, in which Gary is considering whether or not to join Team America, looks as if it was shot on a camcorder. The puppet is shown visiting the various memorials scattered around The Mall in Washington D.C. It was quite amusing.
- The Hans Blix incident. It was good, in a James Bond movie way. Done with puppets.
- The panthers. If you see this film, you'll understand why I laughed quite hard at this part. Nuff said.
- Kim Jong-Il's escape. I actually applauded for this in the theater.
Parts that I didn't like:
- The excessive use of the derogatory terms "fag", "cockfag", and any other variation. I mean, the abbreviation of "Film Actors Guild". C'mon. That's so obvious...but...so. Damn. Low. Parker and Stone are smarter than that.
- The aforementioned butchering of accents. Kim Jong-Il even has a musical number, which thirty seconds in, it becomes apparent that the only reason that the song is in the movie was to get as much mileage off of the joke about how he pronounces "lonely" (read: rone-ree). Again, these boys are smarter than that.
- The vomiting scene. Too. Damn. Much. I'll quote a line from one of my favorite Cake songs right now: "Excess ain't rebellion". They should know this.
- The final speech by Gary. I laughed in a frustrated way and whispered, "I can't believe I followed that logic".
- How Gary must prove his allegiance to Team America near the end of the film. And the subsequent ways in which it is brought up several times in the final five minutes.
So yes. I honestly wished that I could recommend this film as a smart film that uses low brow humor in a clever way to sell its message to the masses. However, this film is a cacophony of confusion. Maybe that is fitting for the times in which we live. There is a great deal of confusion concerning what it means to be American, our purpose, and our destiny. So perhaps, I shouldn't fault Parker and Stone for painting such a muddled picture here. But on the whole, I couldn't get past the film's lack of focus and the feeling that it was rushed (Which...it was. They were still doing final filming a month ago and final editing two weeks ago).