Ebert: Rolling Stone:1/2 TV Guide:1/2
minor plot points revealed!
Is Team America: World Police the funniest movie of the year as claimed in the CNN review? No. I think that honor will go to The December 25th release of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It also has strong "Best Comedy of the Year" competition from the current release Shaun of the Dead. But it's definitely in the top 3 and there probably isn't a movie this year that will make me laugh as hard and as much.
This film was so hilarious that I was still laughing the next day. Certain scenes will randomly pop into your head and you will just giggle out loud. This actually happened today to a student in one of the classes that my wife teaches at the local university. Right in the middle of the lecture, a scene from the film came to mind and she just started laughing.
I had pretty high expectations for Team America and I was not disappointed in the least. If you think you might like it, you will be surprised to find it's even way better than you had imagined! First of all, if you've seen the preview, you knew you were in for a great comedy. Then a few days before the film was released, news articles started popping up that talked about how the film's infamous sex scene had to be edited to avoid the NC17 rating.
You just know a film is going to be good when the rating warns: Rated R for graphic, crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language, all involving puppets. And don't worry, the puppet sex is still graphic and funny as hell and I'm sure we'll all get to see what the MPAA didn't want us to when the DVD comes out. Incidentally, if you're really into graphic puppet sex, Peter Jackson's R rated Muppetty Movie Meet the Feebles was probably more graphic.
Opinions have been pretty extreme. If you read the reviews I've listed above you will find that Peter Travers of Rolling Stone understood the parody and comedy while our chubby little pal at the Chicago Sun Times did not.
Here's a few words of caution for those of you considering buying a ticket: If you don't like the cartoon South Park, then you probably won't like Team America: World Police. Since it's made by the same guys, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it incorporates the same no holds barred, nothing sacred, over the top, equal opportunity offender status that is rampant on South Park. I'm not sure why people would be offended by a puppet comedy or cartoon but some apparently are. Also be mindful of the R rating. This is most definitely not a little kid's movie. There is more swearing in this one film than every other film made this year combined. I'm not joking.
OK, lets get to the story. Basically Team America is a special forces team that is headquartered in a hollowed out cave deep inside Mt. Rushmore. They are called into action any time a terrorist threat emerges and will do anything (and destroy anything), to get the job of killing the terrorists done. After the death of a team member, the organization's leader recruits a young Top Gun actor named Gary to use his "acting powers" and double major in languages, to infiltrate a terrorist cell. We find that the cell is run by none other than North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il who is using the terrorists to assist with his plans for global domination. Gary and the rest of the team must stop Kim Jong Il, the terrorists and a group of self righteous Hollywood protestors before they unleash 9/11 times 2,356.
Matt and Trey do most of the voices in the film and they are super-terrific. Especially Kim Jong Il who some have said sounds like Cartman on South Park. The only good celebrity impersonation in the film comes from Maurice LaMarche (Futurama) who does a dead on Alec Baldwin. The best part about the voice work is that the characters who speak in foreign languages basically just speak gibberish that sounds like what their language sounds like to Americans. I love that they didn't even try to make it sound real.
The entire movie is a marvel of marionette puppetry and small scale model effects. It was actually shot by the cinematographer for Spiderman 2 and The Matrix films, Bill Pope. The facial expressions of the puppets are very detailed and the action flows very smoothly. There are moments though when the limitations of puppets are exemplified, such as in a ridiculous Matrix inspired fight scene where the puppets do little more than jiggle up against each other.
The parodies in the movie are too numerous to mention them all: Kill Bill, The Matrix, Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, Pearl Harbor, all films made by Michael bay and Jerry Bruckheimer (Armegeddon, Top Gun). It has all the basic formulaic elements of a typical blockbuster summer action film but at the same time pokes a sufficient amount of fun at the inflated terror crisis in the world today and America's insane response to it.
The songs are also a highlight. Like the Oscar nominated tunes from The South Park Movie the music here will no doubt leave you rolling in the aisles. Songs like the country western "Freedom isn't free/There's a hefty f*ckin' fee", The love theme "Pearl Harbor sucked/Just a little bit more than I love you", Kim Jong Il's sad ballad "I'm Ronely" and the Team America theme song "America -- F*ck, Yeah" are just some of the inspired and brilliant music on the soundtrack.
I was disappointed to see that Shark Tale beat Team America in it's opening week. I watched both the same day and while one is for kids and the other is most definitely not, Team America is a much better movie. If you're in the mood for graphic, crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language, all involving puppets, then this is really the only movie out there for you!. Go see it today. Be a patriot. Support the arts! America -- F*ck, yeah!