Team America: World Police (2004)

*. Team America: World Police is a product of the same partnership that gave us the television series South Park: director Trey Parker and writers Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady. And in both cases the comic hook is the same: cartoons or puppets doing “adult” things like swearing a lot and having sex. There’s some political satire and observational humour on American culture, but that shocking incongruity is what provides the foundation.
*. I’m not a big fan of South Park, and don’t watch it except by accident, but I have seen some funny episodes. Funnier, at least, than anything in Team America: World Police. This isn’t a bad movie — the puppetry, or Supermarionation as its known as in the business — is actually quite good and the effects are well produced and fun in their obviously fake way. I especially liked the giant black panthers. But as comedy it’s crudely written and not funny at all.
*. To begin with the shock factor I mentioned, here you’ll see puppets dropping loads of bombs and f-bombs, vomiting copiously, having their heads blown into pulpy messes, and fucking in every different kind of position (in the uncut DVD version anyway), including peeing and shitting on each other. Is any of that funny? I guess it depends on how old you are or how easily you shock. I wasn’t offended by any of it, but I wasn’t laughing.

*. Then there is the satire. This aims to be “fair and balanced” by attacking both rah-rah American patriotism (the team’s theme music is “America, fuck yeah!”) and left-wing Hollywood celebrities. But I thought all of this was overplayed. I mean, I get the jokes, but how funny are they? Look at the gung-ho Americans destroying the world in order to save it! Look at the precious actors — who are all members of the Film Actors Guild. That’s F.A.G. They even spell it out for you. Get it? Again: I’m not offended by any of this. But is it funny?
*. My sense is that sending up Hollywood might have been funny but it all seems tired now, and the puppets don’t look or sound at all like their models (not that surprising, as they’re all voiced by Parker). Without their being identified I doubt I could have recognized one of them.
*. Then there is the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. An obvious comic butt with his huge glasses and silly jumpsuits, he also turns his l’s into r’s in stereotypical Asian speech. I wanted to laugh at this guy. But what good lines does he have? The song where he complains about being “ronery”?
*. So I get it. I don’t think I’m missing anything here. I think it would be hard in a film this broad to miss anything. But maybe it’s just not my thing. It’s an “adult” movie in a way that has to use the quotation marks, but it’s not for grown-ups.

3 thoughts on “Team America: World Police (2004)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    I’ll argue the toss, I found this funny at the time and still funny now. Yes, like South Park it’s super-crude, but there’s intelligence behind the satire of both right and left IMHO, the songs are cool, and it works as a send up of films like Stealth or GI Joe. Humour tends to divide, but I’m firmly in the school of thought that finds this a good laugh.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      With comedy, so much depends on what mood you’re in. I remember watching The Brothers Grimsby (the elephant scene) and laughing so hard I was crying. That was a pretty bad movie, but it just got me on a good day. I don’t think I was having a good day when I watched Team America, so I was looking at it with a colder eye.


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