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USA 2004
Directed by
Trey Parker
97 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Luke Jackson
2 stars

Team America: World Police

Synopsis:When terrorists around the globe begin pooling their efforts, the stage is set for the biggest terrorist attack in history. Thankfully, Team America is here. Boasting an ex-quarterback, a martial arts expert, a psychologist and an empath, the world's best and brightest strike force needs only one more thing - a member who can infiltrate the terrorist network and identify its leader. For that, they will need up-and-coming Broadway star Gary Johnston (voiced by Trey Parker). But will the team be able to convince Gary to leave his dreams of stardom behind and join them...before it's too late?

While best known as the co-creator of South Park, Trey Parker's professional career began when he and long-time collaborator Matt Stone were paid two-thousand dollars to design a Christmas video card for a Hollywood executive. Combining crude 2D animation, extreme violence and gross-out humour, The Spirit of Christmas became an instant hit, circulating through the Internet at a rate never before seen, as people clamoured to watch Jesus battle Santa for Yuletide supremacy. The circle was finally completed when the filmmakers (who hadn't thought it necessary to sign a video card that so few people would see) received The Spirit of Christmas as an email attachment from a friend with the words, 'You've got to see this!'

More than ten years later, with the U.S. election heating up, I received an email directing me to the official Team America: World Police website, and clicked the link marked 'Trailer'. The clip began with a flickering incandescent green map of the globe as an unseen speaker said, "Gary, I hate to break it to you, but the world is on the brink of disaster." Then the speaker was revealed: a puppet, his face locked in an expression of regret. I was still laughing two minutes later when the title flew into frame atop a fiery explosion. I replied immediately, 'We have got to see this movie!'

Technically speaking, Team America: World Police is a quantum leap beyond the supermarionation process pioneered by Gerry Anderson in the original Thunderbirds television series. For the opening scene of this film alone, the production team - headed by award-winning architect and set designer David Rockwell - have created a montage of Parisian icons including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre; while puppet designer Norman Tempia and puppet producers the Chiodo Brothers have designed marionettes capable of moving fluidly and reacting with realistic facial expressions while performing stunts and gunfights worthy of any action blockbuster.

Unfortunately, besides its technical prowess, Team America: World Police has little to offer cinemagoers. In a film that seems to be inextricably linked with current politics, Trey Parker fails to offer anything but the most superficial of political statements; his attack on Michael Moore is based upon the activist's weight rather than his views; neither George Bush nor John Kerry makes an appearance; and his most scathing attacks are reserved for actors who have demonstrated a willingness to stand up to George Bush and his corporate cronies. These actors, labelled F.A.G.'s - Film Actors' Guild members - are depicted as naive, sheep-like supporters of a dictatorship capable of destroying the world, and the filmmakers take great pleasure in slaughtering them one by one. At best, this is tall poppy syndrome taken to the extreme; at worst, it's dangerous conservatism masquerading as satire.

In the last few years, Parker's and Stone's popularity has increased in direct proportion with the garishness of their work. Based upon this formula, Team America: World Police should do well financially. However, since a number of the film's key elements, including the song 'Montage', the venomous attack on celebrities, and the theory of life that provides the philosophical basis for the film have been cannibalised from South Park episodes, it will be interesting to see whether fans will embrace the film as something challenging and new, or dismiss it as more of the same.




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