A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Team America: World Police

July 4, 2011

Team America: World Police

We watched Independence Day on July 4th last year. This year we decided to watch the most completely ridiculous and over the top movie about America that we own. I wouldn’t say that this is a patriotic film. If anything it is a sound lambasting of the kind of brainless patriotism seen in stupid action movies. This movie is a parody of Michael Bay style explosion filled action movies, done entirely with marionettes.

This movie is also unbelievably funny. It’s inappropriate, insulting, vulgar and offensive, but it has more laughs per minute than just about anything else we own. Then again, what else would you expect from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys behind South Park?

Team America is a covert and well funded squad of adventurers ala Megaforce or G.I. Joe who travel around the world in their US flag emblazoned super jets fighting crime. At the start of the movie we see them stop a group of terrorists with a suitcase bomb in the heart of Paris. In the process they flatten the Eiffel Tower and blow up the Louvre. Such is there general style – they spread mayhem and destruction wherever they go. It’s the same kind of destruction seen in most summer action movies (indeed I seem to recall that in the G.I. Joe live action movie the Eiffel Tower is also destroyed) but played for laughs.

When one of their team is killed just after the Paris operation Team America needs a new recruit. Their leader Spottswoode chooses Gary Johnston, an accomplished Broadway actor with a degree in foreign linguistics. He figures that with Gary’s powerful acting talent he will be able to infiltrate the terrorist groups and discover the whereabouts of the WMDs that Team America is seeking. Gary’s abilities far exceed even Spottswoode’s expectations, but Gary is haunted by a traumatic event from his childhood and when the Film Actors Guild, led by his idol Alec Baldwin, accuse Team America of escalating global tensions he has a crisis of belief and quits the team. This leaves the rest of the group without an actor and defenseless when the true villain reveals himself. Kim Jong Il is actually behind the terrorist plots and plans to make every country a third world country by detonating WMDs in every capital city during a world peace event he’s hosting.

It’s a stupid and contrived plot, but it’s intended to be such. It’s meant to be a spoof of action films. I can see where they were going with this, and I’m pretty sure Amanda has reviewed it as biting satire that highlights how shallow such movies with their simplistic morality are. For me, though this movie is all about the slapstick physical humor.

The big joke in this movie is that it’s filmed entirely using marionettes with radio-controlled faces. They’re clumsy and mis-shapen and strange looking. It’s similar to the “supermarionation” of the old Thunderbirds, but slightly more modern. I was amused that Trey and Matt chose to keep the movie looking as low-tech as they did. They could have digitally removed the strings that control the characters. They could have used rods for precise control to make the fight scenes elegant and artful. Instead they chose to let the movie look half-assed. Which was the perfect choice to make.

I can’t help laughing every time I see one of the puppets bumbling about with their awkward gait. There’s a fight between a terrorist and one of the team mates early on that is pretty much just the two puppets bumping hilariously against each-other. Several times the diminutive puppets are contrasted to full sized locations and things, which is a great joke that never gets old for me. (For example Gary visiting monuments in Washington DC or when Kim Jong Il’s “panthers” attack members of the team.) I even laugh at the crude bodily humor like the lengthy puppet sex scene and the scene where Gary improbably throws up for about five minutes.

There are bits of this movie that I have to kind of roll my eyes at. Bits that are too sophomoric even for me. (Like the way that Spottswoode determines how determined Gary is to re-join the team after leaving them to their fate.) I can ignore and forget about those bits though – this movie simply makes me laugh with glee so much.

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July 4, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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