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:: Team America: World Police

They’re famous for South Park – the TV series and the film, and the cult film Orgazmo (1997). Not to mention frocking up as JLo and Gynneth Paltrow at the Oscars four years ago. Now Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the two professionals of political incorrectness, bring puppets to the big screen in an action adventure spoof literally inspired by Jerry Bruckheimer.

The plot: actor Gary Johnston is recruited from Broadway to join a unique special ops team. While fighting terrorists and saving the world from destruction, he and the Team America crew destroy several world monuments and come under fire from the liberal Film Actors Group, or FAG.

Everyone gets a serve in this musical comedy, but some insults are greater than others. Firstly, the carelessness and moral superiority with which this team conducts themselves reflects American foreign policy over the last 50 years.

Secondly, it’s unlikely that Parker and Stone will be working with any A-listers any time soon after socking it to power players like Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Matt Damon. The obligatory love song features a chorus line lampooning a Ben Affleck flick: “Pearl Harbour sucked almost as much as I miss you”. While FAG leader Alec Baldwin (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) is described as the greatest actor in the world – which got a huge chuckle from the audience.

However, despite the splatter gun approach to social commentary, there is genuine bite behind Team America: World Police. Although it has been criticised for attacking well-known actors, the film actually attacks celebrity culture, rather than politically active individuals. Indeed, why should the opinion of George Clooney or Helen Hunt be any more important than anyone else’s?

The argument that Parker and Stone attack celebrity culture rather than celebrities is supported by the way Johnston’s acting ability is regarded in the film. It’s a superpower. Although it’s never described as a Jedi skill, there are several references to Star Wars and, in one scene, Johnston plays the Jedi mind trick (Phantom Menace-style) on the guards: “You did not see me. I was never here.” The ridiculous regard for acting in Team America: World Police reinforces the inflated regard the public has for actors in general.

CGI animate the puppets at some stages – and is then removed, emphasising their ‘woodenness’ (watch out for the ultra-lame billiards shot). Despite or even because of this, it’s uncanny just how similar Team America is to its sincere blockbuster cousins. Or perhaps it’s because of the film’s impressively credentialed production design team, with Director of Photography Bill Pope coming direct from Spiderman 2, while special effects were courtesy of Joe Viscocil (an Academy Award® winner for Independence Day). Despite a modest budget, Team America was able to achieve some killer special effects, as scale models of monuments such as the Sphinx and Mount Rushmore only needed to be one-third of the size required for films with human actors.

Team America: World Police is very entertaining and rather intelligent, with less of an indulgence in ‘potty-mouthed’ humour than expected from Parker and Stone. Except for the long projectile vomit scene and the truly unforgettable puppet sex sequence (but hey, as long as it’s between consenting marionettes…). And watch out for the truly spectacular panther attack.

Warning: you may find yourself singing the theme song: Team America, F#&% Yeah!, when you leave this movie. Try and do it under your breath, or you may offend almost as many people as Parker and Stone have over the years.