Saturday, October 9, 2004

Reel To Reel:
Team America: World Police

How It Rates: ***1/2
Starring: Voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Phil Hendrie
Rated: R
Red Flags: Strong Language, Graphic Violence, Explicit Sex -- all with puppets

Preconceived Notions: A crude homage to the classic Thunderbirds children's show.
The Bottom Line: A causticly funny, brutally offensive, dead-on satire of the War on Terror.

Team America: World Police is vulgar, coarse, racist, stereotypical, homophobic, xenophobic, gross, anti-intellectual, pornographic and utterly, wickedly funny.

Moderates, we have found your flick. No, wait, hear me out.

The creators of South Park borrowed the look and feel of the cult-classic Thunderbirds TV series -- that kids show with the adult sensability -- to create a puppet-driven action spoof that yanks everybody else's chain while pulling the strings. No target escapes: goofball Hollywood liberals, conservative anti-terror ranters, crummy blockbuster movies.

A la Thunderbirds, the title characters are an elite anti-terrorism team, fighting from a hidden base in Mount Rushmore. They zoom around the world in their planes and subs and helicopters, blowing up terrorists wherever they can find them. That's not hard because the terrorists always look like Osama Bin Ladens carrying blinking suitcases and jabbering jibberish laced with "Allah" and "jihad." Problem is, Team America also blows up its fair share of landmarks, too, from the Eiffel Tower to the Pyramids, brushing it off with "Damn, missed."

The team is led by Spottswoode, that mysterious man in a wheelchair behind the scenes who's always drinking something and rolling around in every shot. When a team member is killed, Spottswoode recruits a Broadway actor, Gary, staring in the hit musical "Lease" (you figure out the real-life reference) where he belts out "Everybody Has AIDS" as the showstopper. Spottswoode needs Gary to infiltrate -- act his way into -- the terrorists' organization. The fearless leader's words echo Bush administration anti-terror boilerplate: "The terrorists hate you Gary." "The terrorists are planning a major attack." "I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. reports the terrorists are in Egypt." Yes, I spelled that word right. Team America's intel comes from a giant computer voiced by orally-schizophrenic radio jock Phil Hendrie, who also supplies several other voices in the film. Don't ask me what that acronym means.

Gary reluctantly takes the mission and ends up falling in love with Lisa, the team's buxomly sculpted psychologist. True to action-movie form, it's not long before they end up in bed, with a sex scene that had to be re-cut numerous times to dodge an NC-17 territory. Looks like it still got there.

Team America's shoot-everything-that-walks tactics raise the ire of the fictitious Film Actors Guild -- known by its eye-raising acronym. Its peace-pansy left-wing calvacade of stars -- led by Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Matt Damon (in a particularly unflattering portrayal), and others -- organize a world conference under the direction of North Korea's Kim Jong Il. He's a foul-mouthed commie-psycho in huge glasses who can't pronounce his L's and who's secretly plotting to blow the world apart with WMD's as Hollywood brings world leaders together. U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Michael Moore also get their lumps.

And some knife-edged satire is saved for action films, namely in two songs -- one dumping on Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor and another riffing on the filmmaking technique called the "montage." Just listen to it.

But Team America's main targets are extremism -- far-leftism, far-rightism, jingoism, nationalism, and the arrogance that accompanies them. That makes this the perfect movie for moderates put off by Fahrenheit 9/11 and whatever the right answers it with. If you can put up with the cussing, you'll laugh your butt off.

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