Back in 2004, a film called Team America: World Police was released from the creators of the popular (and still running) animated show, South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Much like the show, Team America made it a goal to attack everyone and everything, from celebrities to politics, and how we, as Americans, handle the issues going on in the world. Instead of crappy cut-out style animation, Parker and Stone did the entire movie with marionette puppets. How it even got made and backed by any studio is beyond me, but I am glad it even exists in the first place.
Team America came at a time when fear of terrorism, and conspiracies surrounding 9/11 were at an all-time high, with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 coming out the same year to drive the mindsets of Americans even further, and the Iraq war underway. It was an unsure time, yet somehow, Parker and Stone somehow managed to find the light (and ridiculousness) of these dark moments in patriotism, as they often did when writing South Park, all while making sure it was as tasteless and controversial as possible. Now, making a movie with the intent of offending as many people in the world as possible seems difficult without the fear of being cancelled, yet these two didn’t seem to care who or what was the butt of their jokes, as long as the topic was relevant. Ironically, it was their boldness and scathing nature that made Team America a cult classic, and maybe even one of the funniest movies in existence. To this day, I still find people quoting the film and singing the songs without hesitation; it seems like this movie resonated with a lot of people, and its impact may not be going away any time soon, even when most comedies tend to age poorly in terms of what is tasteful.
Team America: World Police is the story of actor Gary Johnston (Parker), whose skills at giving off great performances and being fluent in so many languages, makes him the top pick to help the police group, Team America, stop a group of terrorists from destroying the world with weapons of mass destruction. As expected, it goes into gleefully offensive heights with its jokes regarding foreign countries and the excessive violence that results. Even North Korea is the butt of many jokes as its leader at the time, Kim Jong-il (Also Parker) is portrayed as a dictator whose actions are the result of loneliness and being misunderstood by those he tries to recruit for his diabolical plans (resulting in a comedic villain song that sounds like it could have been ripped-off of a Dean Martin song, albeit with a mockingly-stereotypical Engrish croon), all while not having the time to be hassled by negotiations, lest they face his wrath.
Its biggest joke, however, is that it cleverly expresses its patriotism, conservatively enough to the point where it feels like Michael Bay had his hands all over it, though it clearly points out its disdain for Bay as a director (“Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you.). It is a film that is drenched in self-serving deprecation, so proud of being American that it comes off as completely foolish, drunkenly unashamed of what it has to say. It is hard not to laugh at what it has become. Team America knows what it is doing, it just does not care, and that is truly something to appreciate.
It would be easy to dismiss Team America as just a movie entirely made with puppets, yet as a movie, it is quite impressive with the work it took to happen. The world-building is amazing as each location has been perfectly crafted to seem as alive and thriving as possible, even if the puppets themselves are flimsy and not as appealing. It almost feels like a real movie and more than just a puppet show, well, at least, a parody of a Hollywood movie (Don’t even get me started on its infamous sex scene).
I never knew what to expect from a movie like Team America: World Police when I first watched it back in high school, but I am glad it has stuck with me for many years since and I am always obliged to revisit it when the mood is right. In the words of its National Anthem “America! F*ck yeah!”