212 – Team America: World Police

At first, you think a broad parody of Michael Bay action movies done with marionettes by the creators of South Park would be an instant bullseye. Then you see your hopes dashed when you realize it’s all just an excuse to cuss a lot and show puppets having sex. But more on that later.

But the sad truth is that Team America doesn’t live up to its own hype. Sure, the use of marionettes is cute, but it’s just a novelty, one whose appeal fades during the first twenty minutes or so.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut seemed to me to be what Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted the television series to be – if they didn’t have to bother with censors and sensibilities. The movie was a giant middle finger to Hollywood and the MPAA, too. Team America merely repeats the gesture, only with the puppet novelty.

The story goes thus. Gary Johnston, a Broadway actor, is recruited by Team America, an organization dedicated to ridding the world of evil dictators and terrorists. The team, with the wheelchair-bound Spottswood as its leader – needs an actor who can get them into and out of situations seamlessly. Once they’ve thwarted a terrorist meeting in Cairo – laying the city to waste in its wake – they learn of a bigger plot involving the use of WMDs.

The plot is fairly topical – will anyone remember who Hans Blix was, 20 years hence? – but for the moment it’s not a hindrance. It’s quite simplistic, but of course it’s meant to be, since the movie is parodying simplistic Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster extravaganzas.

But even if you get past the dopey plot, you quickly notice that the jokes aren’t terribly funny; they’re scattershot, much like the ubiquitous machine guns employed in the film. And the songs aren’t all that memorable, unless you count remembering that there was a plethora of profanity as being memorable.

In essence, Team America is what you might expect to be produced by a first-year film student with no morals. Crude and graphic, it fails on its most appealing level: satire of both the worldview of the United States and the propensity of Hollywood to make loud, meaningless action movies. The jokes and ideas aren’t sly and knowing, they’re obvious and pointless.

There’s nothing wrong with being offensive, of course; Parker and Stone do it for a living. But in the past, they’ve been offensive with a greater purpose – often the satire of commonly held mores or institutions.

Which brings me to the puppet coitus. It’s not amusing. It’s not titillating. It just kind of makes you uncomfortable, like catching monkeys at the zoo going at it. The difference here is that as audience member you’re sort of captive, whereas in the zoo you can keep on walking.

Keep walking, folks. Nothing to see here.

Team America: World Police: **

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