Team America – World Police: Uncensored and Unrated
November 16, 2005
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche, Chelsea Magritte, Jeremy Shada, Fred Tatasciore, Dian Bachar, John D. Kim, Josiah D. Lee, David Michie, Elle Russ, Stanley G. Sawicki, ,
Matt Stone and Trey Parker are among some of the most clever and most savage satirists working today. Every week on their crudely animated TV show, South Park, they skewer sacred cows like religion, politics and dominant figures in popular culture. Their feature film debut, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999), was a brilliant attack on rampant nationalism and the hypocrisy of the MPAA movie censors. Stone and Parker are back with another ingenious effort, Team America World Police (2004), an action film done with puppets in the tradition of the classic Thunderbirds TV show.
Much has been made about the apparent political bias of this movie with both the left and the right claiming it as their own. First and foremost, Team America is a spot-on parody of those bloated Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer action epics with their wooden acting (which makes the use of puppets that much funnier), clunky, cliché-ridden dialogue, excessive budgets and inflated sense of self-importance. Their secondary targets is the conservative nationalism that swept the United States in the wake of 9/11 and the notion of that country designating itself as the world’s police whether anyone wants them to be or not. Parker and Stone also go after lefty, famous Hollywood movie stars like George Clooney and Alec Baldwin who use their celebrity as a platform to voice their beliefs to the public as if that will truly change things (sorry, but Bush is still President).
We are introduced to the World Team Police as they save Paris from weapons of mass destruction but end up blowing up all their famous landmarks in the process. But hey, they stopped the terrorists and that’s what counts, right? The team consists of the ex-quarterback leader, a female empath, the gruff martial arts expert (the best Detroit has to offer) and a psychology expert. When a member of the team is killed, their mission commander, Spottswoode (an uncanny Phil Hartman sound-alike), recruits Gary Johnston, an up-and-coming actor currently on Broadway in Lease (a spot-on lampooning of Rent). The team needs someone who can work undercover. Gary becomes the perfect weapon: a spy who can infiltrate any terrorist organization. It is just in time as Team America are enlisted to stop the next terrorist action which is being masterminded by none other than North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il (who sounds like a cross between Cartman from South Park and Elmer Fudd).
The attention to detail is incredible. In one scene, Times Square is faithfully recreated in miniature. The outfits and vehicles that the puppets wear and drive all look fantastic. The puppets themselves look as good as anything Gerry Anderson ever did and in this respect, Team America is a loving homage as much as it is a satire of his creations. Like the South Park movie, Team America features some hilarious songs, including the chest-beating anthem, “America, Fuck Yeah!” (repeated in a somber slow jam when our heroes are at their lowest), Kim Jong’s lament, “I’m So Lonely,” and “Montage,” which hilariously skewers the cliché action film montage sequence.
Like any good satire, Stone and Parker play it completely straight, never winking at the audience. Satire that works is almost always misinterpreted and rarely appreciated when it first comes out. Case in point: the South Park movie which wasn’t the mega-blockbuster that the studio had hoped but has since developed a loyal cult following. I can see Team America heading the same way. One of the things that makes this movie so funny is that it goes after targets so in need of being satirized.
The Unrated Version of this movie features a slightly longer, more disturbingly explicit puppet sex scene, which, not surprisingly, did not pass the MPAA censors.
“Team America: An Introduction” has Parker and Stone introduce the members of the team. They mention that this movie was a conscious decision to take a giant step back, technology-wise, and a response to the excessive use of CGI in contemporary action movies. Originally, they wanted to redo Armageddon with puppets but realized that they didn’t have the rights to that movie so simply incorporated elements from various other movies.
“Building the World” takes a look at the ambitious sets built for this movie. Production designer Jim Dultz had to recreate a believable Bruckheimer-esque world. The scale is truly impressive as is the amount of detail.
“Crafting the Puppets” features puppet producer Edward Chiodo who talks about how he helped realize Matt and Trey’s vision. We are taken through the design process (size, sculpting, etc.), how they are put together and so on.
“Pulling the Strings” is a brief look at the art of puppeteering and how the film’s puppeteers tried to achieve everything Matt and Trey wanted, including large scale action sequences with many puppets on camera at once.
“Capturing the Action” takes a look at the film’s director of photography, Bill Pope (who worked on The Matrix movies). He talks about applying normal action film camera moves to this movie and how he had to adjust said techniques for a smaller scale.
“Miniature Pyrotechnics” shows how they pulled off some of the great looking explosions in camera and with no CGI.
“Up Close with Kim Jong-Il” features Matt and Trey talking about why they cast the notorious North Korean dictator as the film’s villain. In their research, they found out that he is huge film buff and hope that he gets to see this movie.
Also included are “Dressing Room” and “Puppet” tests that are essentially demo reels trying out certain moves and actions with the puppets.
There are ten “Deleted/Extended Scenes and Outtakes” totaling six minutes. One of the highlights is a funny bit with Team America’s commander talking about his hatred of Winnie the Pooh that should not have been cut.
“Animated Storyboards” showcase the drawings created to plot out and frame six scenes from the movie.
Finally, there are two theatrical trailers.