Hey. You. C'mere. You wanna see some puppets hump? Yeah! For real. I also got puppets puking a keg's worth of green soup. C'mon. Check it out.
Well, you can check that out and much more in "South Park" authors and provocateurs Trey Parker and Matt Stone's new film, Team America: World Police. The movie literally stars visibly-stringed marionettes, voiced by their creators, as Team America, an elite task force whose main goal is to kill WMD-wielding terrorists, without prejudice, no matter where in the world they may be hiding. The biggest shock value delivered by the movie has nothing to do with the Meet The Feebles-inspired inanimate shenanigans illustrated above. That honor instead goes to the amazing irony that, despite it being conceived, created and watched in a post-9/11 world, the movie has less to do with that post-9/11 world and more to do with a satirical, biting look at Hollywood and the famous, overly outspoken, self-important actors who live there.
Consider this: there is no mention or direct reference to the following in Team America: President Bush, or any real or fake American President for that matter; Senator Kerry; the election; the words Republican, Democrat or any political party; there is no mention of any Armed Forces beyond Team America, meaning no stereotyped, stuffy, war-mongering Dr. Strangelove generals. Iraq is mentioned, and only barely, twice. In further eye-winking irony, 9/11 is mentioned many times (as part of what becomes an increasingly tired joke) as a numeral, not an event. While it could be argued that the focus on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and a "World Police" type American foriegn policy put the film squarely in a post 9/11 context, I would argue that those issues were around and were a consideration well before September 11th. Indeed, what at first seems to be a mockery of America's "World Police" policy ends up vindicatation by the time the credits roll. What the current global and political environment does allow, is a perfect womb for this film to be born and to be popular.
What's more readily apparent in the movie are Parker and Stone's desire to skewer and satire Hollywood and the soapboxing actors who live in richly in them thar Hills. For anyone even moderately familiar with South Park, this is not new territory for them; I can recall recent episodes of that show where Rob Reiner, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were targets for their caustic wit. This time, Parker and Stone aim their sharp darts at the more liberal, peace-loving celebrity element, whom they count Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, Sean Penn and a half-retarded (and funny) Matt Damon among its ranks. Formulaic Bruckheimerian action films and more specifically war movies like Pearl Harbor receive similar satirical treatment in song as well as the purposefully brainless tone of the action sequences and some of the dialogue thorughout the movie. But it is those actors, however, that receive more of the pointed and poisoned focus for Parker and Stone. It is highly refreshing that this duo can move past back-patting and ass-kissing, remove any fear of killing their careers and put this piece out. Even more refreshing is knowing the movie was put out by the same Hollywood machine that is at the very core of these rogues' barbs. Oh, by the way, the movie is damn funny, too.
The main message I got from Team America, is that it is impossible to have an important political or world opinion if you are rich, self-important and dining on caviar served by your personal chef; especially when you are only well-known because you play make-believe on celluloid (Playing fake? Perhaps the motivation for puppet usage?). This message provides an even greater argument as to why Parker and Stone could not create an overtly political film; they would have been skewering themselves. Ultimately, the lone actor in the film who makes a difference is the one who shuts his mouth and jumps into the action...the REAL action. An even clearer message is conveyed when you consider that this character is the only actor portrayed in the film who is, in reality, fictional.