Sunday, June 1, 2014

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Team America: World Police" (2004)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#59

Team America: World Police
“Team America: World Police” was a movie of its moment. Presidential elections seem to represent their moments in time, and usually nothing else. Sure, they are always relevant to history but the campaigns for those elections are usually set in the moment of their time and mean to relevance after the president is elected. The 2004 Presidential Election pitted Democrat John Kerry against Republican George W. Bush for a second term. On the eve of that election, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the crazy geniuses behind “South Park,” created a equally crazy comedy called “Team America: World Police.” It was known for its use of marionette puppets, in the vein of “Thunderbirds Are Go,” also known for the use of puppets and scale model effects. It revolved around a group dedicated to fighting terrorism around the globe and they stop a huge terrorist plot, all the while poking fun at both the right and left of the political spectrum.

On a technical level, “Team America: World Police” was kind of cool to watch, even today. In our world today, visual marvels are not supremely special anymore. We bombarded with big, CGI spectacles every single weekend now, when they used to feel like some kind of an event. With so many spectacles readily available, it was cool to see something less-modern. The small world Parker and Stone created is rich with detail and brightly imagined. The movement of the puppets is engrossing, with several jokes about the use of the puppets sticking out well. There is still a certain degree of magic involved in putting together a movie with scale sets and model scale effects, and I thought that Parker and Stone pulled it off flawlessly. The scale of the big action sequences, although small, feels epic. I absolutely love that about the movie, plus I cannot believe that Parker and Stone were able to make a very graphic sex scene with two puppets. Even though the scene involves two puppets, it still feels rather dirty and wrong. The work with the puppets is rather monumental.

Almost all of the voice work is done by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, much like their television shows. They do very good work in all of their voices. Other vice talent includes Kristen Miller, Skyler Stone, Masasa Moyo, Daran Norris, Phil Hendrie and Maurice LaMarche. The rest of the cast also does very stellar work in the movie. I love how Parker and Stone do not put forth a lot of effort in making their voices sound different character to character, yet they always create unique, original characters that feel somewhat different from each other. It’s a skill set that cannot be easy to master, but I find their voice work undeniable. They are funny and outrageous and their zany ideas for characters are true and colorful in this movie.  
The film’s premise is pretty simple; Team America is a para-military counter-terrorism organization whose base of operations is in Mount Rushmore (which is well-done through the small sets). After one of members is killed in Paris, France (along with the Louvre, The Eiffel Tower and other popular French landmarks), they must recruit a new member of the team to help do battle with Kim Jong-il (Parker) who is getting a massive group of terrorists together for a gigantic attack. Gary Johnson (also Parker) is an actor living in New York City and is the guy recruited to help the fight against Jong-il and his terrorist plot, despite not being fully accepted by the team and receiving heavy backlash from the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G. get it?). Gary is able to lead the team to glory against the many terrorists.

Like some episodes of “South Park” there are some great musical numbers in the movie. I sometimes hate the breaking out into the song for the sake of it, but Parker and Stone are able to make it all seem natural and quite humorous. Some people rail against the film for not choosing a side in a political debate, but I think that is part of the genius of the film. I think Parker and Stone’s decision to make fun of the both sides was a stroke of immaturity (well, maybe to a certain extent.), but a way of highlighting just how overboard politics is, especially on the eve of a Presidential election. The road to the White House doesn’t boil down to who can do what, it is very much about money and who can make the other party look worse. I find it sad that this is where our politics have led us to and I think Parker and Stone feel the exact same way. In a raunchy, immature way, they make big, important highlights on a situation I feel needs to be rewired.

Funny, crazy, and outrageous..”Team America: World Police” is still a fun watch.

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