Team America (2004)
Main cast: Trey Parker (voice for Gary Johnston, Joe, Hans Blix, Kim Jong-Il, Carson, Drunk, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Helen Hunt, Matt Damon, Susan Sarandon, etc), Matt Stone (voice for Chris, George Clooney, Danny Glover, Ethan Hawke, Matt Damon, etc), Kristen Miller (voice for Lisa), Masasa (voice for Sarah), Daran Norris (voice for Spottswoode), Phil Hendrie (voice for Intelligence), Maurice LaMarche (voice for Alec Baldwin), and Fred Tatasciore (voice for Samuel L Jackson)
Director: Trey Parker
This is the closest thing I can get to puppet porn, if the unnecessarily long and skeevy scene of the puppets of our hero Gary Johnston and his team mate Lisa getting it on with every one of their body orifice that really doesn't exist on their puppet frames is anything to go by. That scene epitomizes the puppet-driven (ala the TV series The Thunderbirds) movie perfectly: Team America isn't as daring and funny as it thinks it is.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker, whose roles as crude and vulgar satirists are fast approaching sell-by date if they haven't already, attempt to satirize the post-9/11 situation in the world, sparing no sides. Michael Moore is depicted as a crazed suicide bomber while the legion of left-leaning actors-with-causes are depicted as self-important brainless egomaniacs. The movie also lobs eggs at the right, though, with Team America, the self-proclaimed World Police squad, getting its intelligence on terrorist activities based on a supercomputer that collects information from TV news broadcasts in America. With flimsy evidence, Team America will smash at terrorists in the most inept manner possible, destroying towns in the process, with only America hailing them as heroes while the rest of the world look on in horror.
Recruited into Team America is Broadway actor Gary Johnston (check out the Rent parody, Lease, which has a song that goes "Everybody got AIDS!") to take the place of a dead dude. Lisa, the woman who loves the dead dude, and Gary are instantly attracted to each other but can love survive Kim Jong-Il's plot to take over the world?
The characters are actually hand-controlled puppets with the marionette strings clearly visible on the screen. This must have eaten the budget of the movie because the voices, done mostly by Mr Stone and Mr Parker, are awful. Kim Jong-Il sounds like Elmer Fudd rather than a Korean with awful accent, for example, which robs the character of any potential offensiveness or humor value (depending on how you like your ethnic jokes) and reduces the character into just a sad little brother of Elmer Fudd. Also, many of the effective satire is derailed by the movie's detour into scatalogical humor that is crude but unfunny, thus losing any momentum it is building up between its scenes of satire. Even the penultimate moment, involving comparisons of various orifices and sex organs of the body to world politics, falls flat because after so many failed attempts at scatological comedy, this scene comes off as yet another moment where the inner 13-year-olds of Mr Stone and Mr Parker have taken over their senses again.
I don't mind scatalogical humor provided that they are humorous but here, those scenes of that sort are just overly long and drawn-out long after the punchline is delivered and I have stopped laughing. A scene where Gary just keeps vomiting for what seems like five minutes is an example of this. It's funny in a very low-brow way for the first two seconds but when this scene just goes on and on with Gary keep puking, it's no longer funny as much as painful.
At the end of the day, because the movie fumbles so much in its execution, Team America misses more than it hits. I remember the songs better than the movie, come to think of it. Pearl Harbor Sucked and I Miss You is hilarious. Ultimately I can't help thinking that this movie would be so much more hard-hitting if it's, say, half-an-hour long with all the filler moments left on the cutting room floor.
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