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Team America: World Police (2004)

Putting the "F" back in Freedom.

Directed by:

Trey Parker

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Once upon a time – in the 1960s, to be precise – there was a small, committed team whose swift and daring interventions could be relied upon to resolve pretty much any threat to world security. These were the earnest heroes of Gerry Anderson's cult TV show 'Thunderbirds', and even if Anderson's patented 'supermarionation' prevented these global guardians from crossing the floor in a straight line, nonetheless their ability to manœuvre the most complex of rescue machinery with ease assured that they saved the world at least once an episode, reflecting an idealism and innocence that was symptomatic of their decade.

Now of course we live in different times. Owing to technological advances, marionettes have given way to computer generated imagery (the cinematic adaptation of Thunderbirds in 2004 had no puppetry), and in any case the vehicles originally operated by International Rescue no longer seem particularly futuristic. More importantly, though, ours is an age of cynicism – one of the reasons that the Thunderbirds movie was so risible to anyone but children is that the problems facing today’s world are patently not open to easy or quick remedies, and the notion that those seeking to solve them have entirely pure motives is difficult to credit when the whole concept of ‘international rescue’ has become little more than a propaganda myth perpetrated upon a populace of (oil) consumers by powerful vested interests that pull all the strings – which is why strings-and-all puppetry, however outdated it may be as a mode of animation, is so perfectly suited to drive the satire of ‘Team America: World Police’.

In ‘Team America: World Police’, writer/director Trey Parker and his co-writers Matt Stone and Pam Brady have followed the egalitarian formula of their successful animated television series ‘South Park’, ensuring that there is something in this film to offend everyone in equal measure, no matter what their political persuasion. Opening with a geographical caption that reads “Paris, France – 3,363 miles east of America” (and later including another that identifies Panama Canal by its distance from “the real America”), ‘Team America: World Police’ sends up just about every aspect of US foreign policy and the ‘War on Terror’ – its own righteous self-importance, its insensitivity to other cultures, its propensity to take drastic actions on the basis of faulty intelligence (or in this case a faulty computer called ‘I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E.’) and its blindness to the (non-American) casualties of its own onslaughts (“We got the terrorist!” boasts the team, having just blown up the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre to do so). Not that the alternative strategies espoused by, say, the UN, ‘old Europe’ or the American left, get off any more lightly (and Hans Blix is seen being torn limb from limb by a foul-mouthed Kim Jong-Il’s pet sharks). The film’s greatest venom, however, is reserved for (reactionary) Hollywood movies and their jingoistic gungho-isms, and (liberal) Hollywood performers and their misguided forays from acting to activism – all of which are mercilessly (and hilariously) spoofed.

The film’s dialogue is stitched together from absurd cinematic clichés and jaw-dropping profanities, it includes frequent images of familiar celebrities being eviscerated, decapitated, burnt alive or just plain ridiculed, it contains one of the most graphic (and painfully funny) sex scenes in the history of mainstream cinema, and it concludes with an analysis of America’s War on Terror in terms of dicks, pussies and assholes that is as coarsely literal an account of the phallocentrism of US imperialism ever likely to be heard. In short, ‘Team America: World Police’ is a comic triumph in which America’s relationship to the rest of the world is shown with all its awkward, unsightly strings attached.

It's Got: A song comparing hero Garys love for Lisa with his hatred for the film Pearl Harbour (the latter of course comes out on top); puppet porn; James Bond-style baddie Kim Jong-Il launching into a song about how "wonely" he is; and lines like "I like you - you have balls - I like balls", "weve lost intelligence - I repeat, we have no intelligence" and "when you see Alec Baldwin, you will see the true ugliness of human nature".

It Needs: To be avoided by the sensitive or easily offended.

Alternatives:

Longer and Uncut, Meet the Feebles, South Park The Movie: Bigger, Thunderbirds

Summary

A hilariously irreverent exposé of America's relationship – with strings attached – to the rest of the world.