When I first heard about this film I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo behind South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, were making a movie about America’s role as police force to a world terrorized by, well, terror…and they would make it using not animation, not actors, but…marionettes? I figured it had to be a joke, and they were just punking us all. Believe me, they weren’t.
Team America: World Police may be the most subversively intelligent political satire that I have seen since…well…Dr. Strangelove. Part of me is almost embarrassed to make that comparison, but it is nonetheless valid. Strangelove is an undisputed masterpiece, and when viewed today it is very easy to marvel in a clinical way at how groundbreaking, offensive, daring, and dangerous it would have been to the politically naive Ward Cleavers of that day. However, it is not the least bit controversial, offensive, or groundbreaking to the jaded audiences of today, who have seen it all. But we haven’t seen it all, and Team America proves it.
Just as Strangelove shocked the sensibilities of the America of its day, Team America will shock you, if you go see it. And I highly recommend that you do, but leave the kiddies at home (but take the later teens, who might actually learn something amid all the cursing, stereotypes, violence, and puppet sex). In today’s political era where every supposed “news” outlet proudly wears its affiliations on its sleeve (FOX is conservative/Republican, CNN is liberal/Democrat, etc), it’s nice to experience balanced political commentary, which is exactly what Team America is, if you have an open mind.
Parker and Stone attack the hegemonic hubris of America-as-latter-day-Roman-Empire, with our government’s proclivity of presuming to tell the rest of the world how to run its business (to our advantage, of course). But they also attack the rise of celebrity/activists, who presume to tell world leaders how to run the world, presumably using the insight they gleaned from scripts someone else wrote but that they nobly memorized (or read from cue cards).
In both cases, Team America hits the bull’s-eye with laserlike accuracy. One might think that if Parker and Stone are smart enough to see North Korea as a greater threat to world security than Middle-Eastern terrorism that the US government would be, too, but one would be wrong. One might think that celebrities would understand that the even though people listen to and report what they say, their opinions are no more valid or informed than anybody else’s, but one would, again, be wrong. One might think that there are no great truths to be learned by watching a drunken marionette collapse in a pool of his own vomit, but one would, again, be wrong.
The film itself is painfully funny, in that I laughed so hard that it hurt. It’s almost impossible to offend