Team America: World Police
Release Date: October 15, 2004
Genre: Action, Comedy
Director: Trey Parker
Writers: Trey Parker, Matt Stone & Pam Brady
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa Moyo, Daran Norris
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been creating a ton of laughs and a ton of controversy for the past twenty years. “South Park” is getting into Simpsons territory as it gears up for its twenty-third season on Comedy Central in September. In addition to their hit cartoon show, they’ve created several movies and a hit Broadway musical. I did a poll last month on my Twitter page (@GPCRMovies) as to which of their movies would readers would like for me to review. It was a close race, but in the end, the movie that came out as the winner was their 2004 pre-election comedy “Team America: World Police!”
I’m sure the majority of you readers have seen this movie before, but for those who never heard of it or slipped by them, “Team America: World Police” is Parker and Stone’s movie consisting of wooden puppets modeled and performed in the same way as the hit British show “Thunderbirds!” Team America is a secret organization that fights terrorism all over the world. After one of their comrades is killed during a bomb plot in France, the team regroups and tries to find a recruit who could perform espionage work. They find a Broadway actor named Gary Johnston and convince him to join the team based on his “great acting skills!” and gives him the task of disguising himself as a terrorist to obtain information. Eventually they uncover that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is supplying terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. He creates a fake peace accord with the help of the Film Actors Guild, a group of liberal Hollywood actors led by Alec Baldwin in a conspiracy to take over the world.
When I first saw “Team America” I thought it was a satire of how Americans reacted after the events of 9/11. We all wanted to start going after terrorists and eventually that would lead into two wars (which are the longest wars on record as of this piece). Parker and Stone were able to capture the emotions of the country from both sides of the political spectrum. You have one side who wants to bomb them all to the stone age and you have another side who is protesting military action and want to use appeasement to settle differences. Like a majority of people, Parker and Stone strongly believe that the United States should not be the policemen of the world and Hollywood actors think they’re smarter than everyone else and know how to solve all the world’s problems.
The movie offers a sheer amount of wit and subversive humor. There’s so much of it but doesn’t wear you down with the vague references and really confusing in-jokes. “South Park” fans will recognize the familiar voices of Parker and Stone as they provide different vocal performances of each of the characters to give them a stand-alone identity. My favorite voice performance is that of Kim Jong Il. Parker uses his “City Wok Owner” voice to portray Kim with the same kind of mispronunciations and anger that it’s “South Park” counterpart offers.
The story is easy to follow and is filled with plenty of action. There are lots of explosions, gunfire and puppet to puppet combat. I was laughing in tears when Team America would go to a location and start killing terrorists and blowing people up that in the end as they are doing their victory pose, you see a city like Paris just smelt into piles of rubble.
And like “South Park” Parker and Stone aren’t afraid to go after those in Hollywood who voice their political opinions to the world as an effort to show they’re smarter than the average person. The most vocal actors/filmmakers are presented in this film. Everyone from Alec Baldwin to Michael Moore are displayed with the familiar amount of hypocrisy presented in the same manner as their real selves.
Of course, what wouldn’t be a review of “Team America: World Police” without talking about the puppetry. As stated in the beginning of the review, this film is an homage to “Thunderbirds!” The look of the puppets and the way they move complete with exposed strings is exactly taken from the cult television series. You’ll be laughing in stitches the way they move, run, blink and fight. I would assume they worked with the same team on “Thunderbirds” to use the same puppets and style them differently or they worked with them to create them exclusively for the film. Obviously, the Kim Jong Un puppet and many of the Hollywood stars were built just for this movie.
“Team America: World Police” is not a movie for everyone. If you’re not a fan of “South Park” or its humor, then you won’t enjoy this at all. If you do enjoy the show, you’ll see this as an extension to it. I’ve seen all of Parker and Stone’s feature films. “Team America” would have to rank in the middle. “Orgazmo” is still my favorite of their short filmography, however it didn’t get the votes to be showcased here on “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review.” Congratulations to “Team America: World Police” on winning the first fan poll. Thank you to everyone who participated. I will be doing this again in the mere future. Stay tuned!
- The very first footage screened for Paramount executives was of a poorly crafted puppet in front of a background of a badly drawn Eiffel Tower, prompting one executive in the audience to yell, “Oh God, they fucked us!” This was a prank pulled by the directors and the shot then pulls back to reveal a highly refined marionette manipulating the inferior one, then flies over beautifully detailed Parisian landscape full of believable yet cheesy marionettes. This actually ended up being the opening shot of the movie.
- All the background foliage in the Panama sequence is cannabis plants.
- Originally, Matt Damon (who Trey Parker and Matt Stone have admitted is really a “pretty cool guy”) was going to be portrayed as intelligent and articulate, but when they saw the puppet, they noted that it made him “look retarded” and decided to portray him as such.
- Paramount immediately green lighted the idea of making a puppet movie, in the mistaken belief that it would be cheaper than a live action film.
- Matt Stone was interviewed by Michael Moore for his film Bowling for Columbine (2002) because he grew up near the infamous school. However, he was very unhappy about the animated section of his film, believing that Moore had intentionally left the impression that he and Parker had made it. For that reason, Michael Moore was portrayed in an amusingly negative fashion in Team America: World Police.
- George Clooney was a driving force in getting Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s South Park (1997) to air. He also appeared in the show and the subsequent movie. As to their puppetry portrayal in Team America: World Police (2004), both he and Matt Damon are quoted as saying they would have been offended if they weren’t in the film.
- Despite almost getting an NC-17 rating in the United States, the film was promoted as a “kids and family” movie in several European countries and rated fit for all accordingly.
- When the camera first shows us the palace in North Korea, several of the smaller buildings are actually Chinese food take-out boxes.
- The leaves on the palm trees in Hollywood during the F.A.G. meeting are made out of dollar bills.
- Sean Penn was so insulted by the filmmakers’ suggestion that there was “no shame in not voting” that he wrote an angry letter to Matt Stone and Trey Parker with the closing “a sincere fuck you, Sean Penn.”
- When the Film Actors Guild decides to go to North Korea, the members all shout “Qapla!” which is Klingon for success.
Gary’s Acting Secret
Step Into My Car
Now I’ve Seen Everything
9/11 Times 100
Fire His Translator
Cario, That’s in Egypt!
I Like You
Five Terrorists Going Southeast
One Of The Terrorists Is Trying To Tell Us Something
Tim Robbins’ Statement
I Don’t Have Any Weapons Of Mass Destruction
Very Bad Intelligence
There’s No ‘I’ In Team America
You’ll Never Keep The World Leaders Distracted
We Need A Montage