Political Film Society - Newsletter #209 - October 15, 2004

October 15 , 2004


Team AmericaTeam America: World Police, directed by Trey Parker, is an insult to those who died on 9/11 rather than a clever satire of the war on terrorism.  Audiences laugh at rather than with the movie. Presumably, no actor could be found to agree to play a role in the film, so Team America presents cartoon characters as marionettes, one of whom categorizes the world autobiographically into three types of persons--dicks, pussies, and assholes. The plot is about a group of hotshot counterterrorists who preemptively stop evil deeds just before they come to fruition, but in fact the problem of terrorism takes a back seat to conspiracy theories of various sorts, to political nitwits, and to a bizarre sexual discourse. When the story begins, a group of bearded Middle Easterners is plotting to place a suitcase bomb in the heart of Paris. Team America soon arrives, guns blazing, to stop them. However, they launch wholesale high-tech firepower instead of retail precision bullets, such that they are responsible for blowing up the Louvre, toppling the Arc de Triomphe, and collapsing the Eiffel Tower. Rather than apologizing for the collateral damage, Team Leader Spottswoode (voiced by Daran Norris) is upset that his number one counterterrorist is killed in the fracas. Accordingly, he looks for a replacement and finds Gary Johnston (voiced by Trey Parker), hitherto a New York stage actor with a command of many languages. Because an intelligence computer (voiced by Phil Hendrie) says that a major terrorist attack is being planned in Cairo, Spottswoode recruits Gary to pose as a Middle Easterner so that he can infiltrate a group that is plotting something big. When he finally agrees to do so, the mission is successful, but Gary witnesses so much collateral damage (destruction of the Sphinx and a major pyramid) from what is instead a minor threat that he resigns from the team; indeed, the intelligence computer at the homeport inside Mount Rushmore later says that he is sorry for the misinformation.

When Spottswoode learns about the real megaplotter, North Korea's Kim Jong Il (voiced by Trey Parker), he prevails on Gary to rejoin Team America. Success results, though an assassinated Kim is reincarnated before our eyes as a cockroach. The story, thus, may seem unremarkable, so what's the fuss? The answer is that bad guys, good guys, and sexual acts are ridiculously portrayed. For example, in the midst of original music with an Andrew Lloyd Webber beat, the themesong is "America! Fuck, yeah!" Terrorist operatives are portrayed as stereotypic Chechens and Middle Easterners. Gary's makeup to go undercover in Cairo is unconvincing; for instance, he retains blue eyes after an operation captioned for retinal recoloration. Kim Jong Il gives weapons of mass destruction to the terrorists to do his bidding, as if they were puppets. Weapons inspector Hans Blix (voiced by Trey Parker) and the United Nations are lampooned as naïve. Team America also depicts Hollywood stars as opposed to the war on terrorism; in particular, Michael Moore (voiced by who knows who) blows up the headquarters of Team America, and Alec Baldwin (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) convenes a peace conference as president of the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.) to protest efforts of Team America to take out the North Korean leader. (Credits at the end, doubtless due to the intervention of a Paramount Pictures attorney, point out that Baldwin and other members of the so-called F.A.G. did not authorize the use of their names in the film.) As for sexual discourse and activity, one night Gary performs various Kama Sutra positions on fellow Team member Lisa (voiced by Kristen Miller); later, he is forced to prove his loyalty by obeying Spottswoode's order, "Suck my cock!" However, that sex act is not on the screen, the lone example of directorial restraint in a film that has no purpose other than to exploit foul language, loud music, vulgar profanity, and preposterous scenarios without exposing who might be pulling the strings of the puppets. The tagline "Putting the 'F' back in Freedom" is more than appropriate in characterizing the literary license of the screenwriters that should be revoked as soon as possible.  MH