The creators of South Park unleash their subtle brand of humour on the world with Team America: World Police a 2004 film written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady being directed by Parker. The film is shot almost entirely using marionettes (that’s a fancy word for puppets in case you didn’t know), and seems to have been inspired by British shows like Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett
In recent months I have been trying to educate Abbie on some of the classics of modern cinema, we have watched The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day as well as some of my personal favourites...none of which that she really liked. As it is a quid pro quo kind of arrangement I have been forced to sit through one tragic Rom-Com after another. I finally decided that if she is going to dislike any film I put on anyway then I am going to put on a film that I think is really funny but would definitely not be her cup of tea namely Team America: World Police
So who are Team America??
Well, they are an organisation exists to protect the world from the threat of global terrorist threats; they are all that stands in between the world and total anarchy.
After a mission to Paris results in the death of team member Carson, as well as the destruction of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, Team America’s leader Spottswoode (voiced by Daran Norris) decides that the team requires an actor, good enough to infiltrate the terrorists and find out their plans. He picks Gary Johnston (voiced by Trey Parker) and after a brief introduction to the members of Team America he undergoes surgery to give him a disguise that can fool the terrorists.
Gary successfully infiltrates the terrorists but the team soon uncovers a plan to destroy the world that is far worse than anything they could possibly have imagined. The vile dictator Kim Jong-il (also voiced by Trey Parker) has a plan in motion that will lead to the deaths of millions, and only Team America can stop him. Unfortunately the team are also under threat from F.A.G (the Film Actors Guild) lead by Alec Baldwin.
Team America is a ridiculous as it sounds...and as it is from the creators of South Park it should be pretty obvious that the humour is crude, adult, foul mouthed and is absolutely hilarious. The Film Actors Guild believe that as actors they know how the world should be run and team up with Jong-il to prevent Team America from doing their jobs.
The running gag of the film is that the team actually cause more damage than the terrorists they are trying to stop, and it doesn’t stop being funny. During the film they blow up the Eiffel Tower, the Sphinx and the Louvre, all in the name of trying to stop the terrorists from launching weapons of mass destruction and causing damage. Yet they always expect to be thanked for stopping the terrorists even in the wake of all the destruction that they have caused. Blowing up ancient landmarks is all in a day’s work when the terrorists have been stopped and they go home to celebrate a job well done.
The film is also a blatant humorous emphasis on America’s foreign policy and that the Americans seem to believe that it is their responsibility to police the world. I have travelled to the United States on several occasions and have met a number of very pleasant Americans, what I found incredibly amusing is that they don’t seem to get that Team America is taking the piss of them. The theme song which blasts: “America! Fuck Yeah! Here we come to save the Mother-fucking Day Yeah! America! Fuck Yeah!” which they actually think it is praising how good America is. Don’t get me wrong I like America and Americans in general. But as a people sarcasm seems to be lost on them and watching them singing along to the theme makes me shake my head in disbelief.
Yet what also works is that Team America is a perfect parody of all the action movie clichés that always have lots of spectacular set pieces, massive explosions, a ruthless and diabolical villain but also those tender moments when people reveal their personal tragedies. Every single member of Team America has some dark tragedy in their past and each one is revealed as the film goes on as the team bond whilst trying to stop Kim Jong-il.
I love the fact that Gary carries so much weight because he is an actor, and once more the film manages to take the piss out of how seriously that some actors take themselves and believe that they are an authority on world politics because they are famous.
Any fan of South Park will know that it is a show that is not renowned for its subtlety, and Team America follows on this tradition. The jokes come thick and fast. Spottswoode steals every scene along with the Team’s computer I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E with the film’s soundtrack only adding to the hilarity. Non-fans of South Park can sit back and enjoy the humour of the story, and fans of South Park will undoubtedly love the fact that Kim Jong-il is voiced by Trey Parker (who voices Cartman in South Park).
There is so much fun to be had from watching Team America with so many running jokes it is impossible to keep track of them all. Matt Damon (voiced once again by Trey Parker) only ever says his own name, and the other actors parodied are also very funny. None of them provide their own voices, with Trey Parker doing a lot of the work as the voices of multiple characters. Apparently some of the actors (such as Alec Baldwin) did want to voice their puppet counterparts but the offer was declined because taking the piss of someone cannot be done if they are in on the joke. Seriously try it, if someone takes the piss of you, roll with it, and they’ll stop doing it (either that or vaporise them...up to you).
Anyway, what I found most surprising about this film was that Abbie actually liked it. She found it very funny. But there is no way that it could be made today because everyone is so concerned about political correctness and not offending anyone that it would have been halted in pre-production. It is a rare film and one that will never have a sequel because from what I read it was so hard to make it that Parker and Stone burned the puppets afterwards so they would never be called upon to do another which is a shame. However, it means that it is a stand-alone film that is entirely unique and is well worth seeking out if you want something that will make you laugh till your sides hurt.
Naturally my Thumb is Up, Team America is a great film that is as funny now as it was in 2004 when it was released. Possibly even more so because I honestly couldn’t imagine anyone getting away with making a film like that these days. It manages to take the piss out of celebrities, foreign policy and America’s patriotism in general and yet Americans will still stand up and shout “America! Fuck Yeah!” but then when watching this film so will I
9/10 – A truly great and unique film. You don’t need to be a fan of South Park to enjoy the film, as long as you can sit back and just enjoy how ridiculous everything you are watching truly is then you’ll be laughing your head off from beginning to end.