Team America: World Police (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"Freedom isn't free. No, there's a hefty fuckin' fee"

"Darling, I need you more than Ben Affleck needs acting school"

- song lyrics from Team America


I guess the Affleck reference is appropriate, because Team America is the first movie with an all-wooden cast since Jersey Girl.

If you have seen a lot of movies in your life, as I have, you are often haunted by the feeling that you've seen it all before:  relationship "comedies" where people talk to the camera; "thrillers" with the exact same ludicrous plot twists which have been used a hundred times before; "dramas" that teach us to love homosexuals and respect suicide; Summer blockbusters which consist almost entirely of explosions and car chases, punctuated by some "buddy" humor. The same crap again and again.

And then there are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, those two incredibly funny Colorado satirists who seem to see the humor in everything, and really enjoy barbequing every sacred cow. Nothing they do seems like it has been done before. When they were still in school, they created "Cannibal, the Musical", which certainly must be the Citizen Kane of happy-ass musicals about cannibalism and capital punishment. As time went on, they came up with Orgazmo and their groundbreaking South Park franchise. Their humor is scatological, sophomoric, often stupid, sometimes downright offensive, and almost invariably howlingly funny.

I knew they were my kinds of guys when Trey Parker showed up at some Hollywood soiree wearing the exact same revealing dress that had  brought J-Lo to national attention.

The best thing about these guys is that they have an unflinching eye for people who take themselves far too seriously. It doesn't matter which side of the political or cultural spectrum those people fall on, Matt and Trey will seek them out like lionesses seeking prey, sensing vulnerability and attacking. Their targets include not only the current administration and its self-righteous holier-than-thou patriotism, but also the Hollywood leftist elite and its own self-righteous holier-than-thou liberalism. Matt and Trey know, as you and I do, that these people all deserve ridicule in some way or another. How many times have we seen someone like Donald Rumsfeld or the Presidential press secretary tell an outright lie to a room full of reporters who are all too intimidated and too chickenshit to say, "Dude, we've listened to enough of this crap. Everyone in this room knows you're lying, including you. How about just dropping the bullshit and telling us the unspun truth?" On the other side, how many times have we heard the Hollywood elitists defend some gang of common thugs like the Palestinian Authority, just because doing so is contrary to the positions of Israel or the American government? How many times have we heard ideologies like Michael Moore or the Swift Boat Veterans spin and twist facts to make some point that simply is not warranted by the unspun truth? How many times have we heard allegedly educated and sophisticated movie critics tell us that some utter crap like The Hours is sheer genius on a level with Shakespeare, simply because the movie advocates some lifestyle or political position that they approve of?

Well, to answer my own rhetorical questions, a lot of times. And we have been powerless to do anything about it. We wish we could be in the room with those people just once, just so somebody would call them on their bullshit. Thankfully, we have Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the ultimate populist voices, who see the same things that we see, but do have the power to make that call. Not to mention the scatological wit and the cojones to do so. Good for them. Their reaction provides a catharsis for the rest of us. I saw this film in a theater filled with a mixed audience of various demographic groups - old and young, well groomed and sloppy. There were plenty of times when my ears hurt from the noise of laughter. When the film was finished, about half of the members of the audience jumped to their feet, cheered and applauded wildly. When was the last time you saw that happen after a movie?

Team America is an all-puppet film about a sort of high-tech pseudo-CIA black operations team which flies off at a moment's notice to combat America's enemies wherever they may appear, and often to destroy far more than the terrorists would have if their evil plan had been uninterrupted. In the course of this film, Team America destroys the Sphinx, some pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and God knows what else. Their enemy of the moment is Kim Jong Il, who is using Islamic terrorists as pawns in his own game of world domination. Team America's only hope to defeat the terrorists is to recruit the world's greatest actor, who will use his acting skills to pretend to be a terrorist himself, thus infiltrating their cells and uncovering their secret plans.

His brilliant technique basically consists of going into the terrorists' favorite tavern (which looks suspiciously like the Star Wars cantina) with shoe polish on his face and a towel on his head, and saying "so ... anybody know of any good terrorist activities coming up soon?"

That's the basic plot.

Not that the plot really matters.

"I've been to Iraq. Before Team America arrived, it was a land of flowery meadows and rainbow skies and rivers made of chocolate where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles"

Puppet Sean Penn

This film is exceptional in many ways.

  • First of all, it is the funniest comedy of the year. I guess that almost goes without saying. Dodgeball was funny, but this movie is often side-splitting. When it isn't making fun of politically correct thinking and nutbars like Kim Jong Il and Sean Penn, it is making fun of itself with hilarious sight gags. Imagine a XXX love scene between marionettes. Imagine a bunch of do-gooder marionettes thrown to Kim Jong Il's vicious panthers - played by cute little black kitties. Imagine a scene where the CIA recruiter tells the talented amateur - "if you do get caught, you may want this to end your own life before they torture you" - and hands him - what? We are expecting to see a cyanide pill, but hell no, that won't work. The guy is made of wood, after all. The CIA boss hands him a hammer.

  • Second, it is the best-ever parody of summer blockbusters. I suppose the previous record holder was The Last Action Hero, and this is light-years beyond that. All of our heroes have hidden childhood traumas, and intone somber lines like, "Sometimes...believing is all we have".

  • Third, it is the best original musical of the year, although I guess there is no competition.

  • Fourth, the set design and cinematography are magnificent. It stars marionettes, but it looks better than any recent movie with live actors. It just looks downright gorgeous, and there are so many visual jokes in every scene that you'd have to watch the film in stop motion to catch them all.

  • Fifth, it is creative, inventive, and magical. It reminds those of us who love movies why we fell in love in the first place, because movies take us places we have never been, and open our eyes to possibilities we have never imagined.

  • Sixth, the puppetry is amazing. The marionettes are less wooden and have far more facial expressions than Antonio Banderas.

Of course, we do not live in a fair world. Comedies are not placed on an equal level with drama. The very best comedies - Duck Soup, Airplane, There's Something About Mary, and the like - are not considered worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as mediocre dramas. To nominate Airplane or Blazing Saddles as best picture of any year would be considered an act of sacrilege. Furthermore, a comedy which skewers the Hollywood elite, which implies that they are dumber than the President whose intelligence they scorn, is surely not going to be honored by those very people. Matt and Trey are not only pariahs, they are "personae non gratae" in Hollywood.

So forget about all those Hollywood power hitters and their phony-baloney awards.

If we did live in a fair world, we might say that this movie is one of the the best films of the year so far.



  • Featurette: "Team America: An Introduction."
  • Eight production featurettes: “Building The World”; “Crafting the Puppets”; “Pulling The Strings”; “Capturing The Action”; “Miniature Pyrotechnics”; “Up Close With Kim Jong-Il”; “Dressing Room Test”; “Puppet Test”.
  • Deleted and extended scenes and outtakes.
  • Two theatrical trailers and animated storyboards
  • As far as I can see, the only significant change in the "unrated version" of the movie occurs in the puppet sex scene. In order to get their R rating the boys had to cut out two sex vignettes - one in which the male puppet gives the female a golden shower, another in which the female puppet takes a graphically portrayed shit on the male's face!! These scenes are restored for the version which is on the DVD. The other deleted scenes (I guess) are not added back into the film proper, but are kept in the "deleted scenes" ghetto.


The two leading puppets have a nude XXX love scene. Of course, they do not have genitals, so that makes it somewhat less obscene.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 1/4, James Berardinelli 2.5/4

  • British consensus out of four stars: three stars. Telegraph 6/10, Independent 8/10, Guardian 9/10, Times 7/10, Financial Times 10/10, BBC 3/5.

The People Vote ...

Miscellaneous ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. (Maybe higher. I don't know if it has crossover appeal, but it is a magnificent parody of summer blockbusters). It's unique, and howlingly funny. When I saw it, the audience gave it a standing ovation.

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