Team America








With Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen coming out June 24th to transform all sequel numbers into colons and subtitles, you should make a point to check out Team America:  World Police.  Not only did it use the same colon, but it also poked fun at Hollywood’s gravitation towards puppet movies before anyone realized that action movies no longer require actors.

Those of you who have seen it know exactly what I’m talking about. Team America: World Police. America! F*** Yeah! If you haven’t seen it, well, this post is to humbly try and persuade you that this movie belongs in any list of "important" films.

See, I was talking with a friend of mine about how this movie was actually important. I was hesitant to actually let him see it because he has delicate sensibilities, and this movie isn’t for the squeamish (not like Cannibal Holocaust which is both bad and extreme and therefore laughable). But in explaining it to him I tried to impress upon him that this movie is actually a very impressive achievement, even with all its potty humor.

Let me break it down.

The premise of this movie is that a crack, crime-fighting group, Team America, is looking to infiltrate terrorist organizations.  The problem is they need someone who can "act" like a terroist to infiltrate the terrorists.  Oh yeah, and they’re all puppets, but so are the villains, so it all evens out.

This should be your first clue at the genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone,those South Park guys. They recognize that modern action films do not actually require actors. Strict adherence to conventions will get you through just about any crazy set up. I’m serious here.  The catch-phrase laden dialogue could easily (and naturally) find its way into any mainstream action film.  That’s why, when you watch this movie you will start to forget that you’re watching a bunch of puppets. That is until the the directors make a point of reminding you of that fact.

Each time they do that, they’re subtly reminding you that Michael Bay doesn’t need Will Smith to make his movies successful. Think I’m lying? Michael Bay’s last two films? Transformers. Their star anchor? Shia LaBoeuf. That’s right, the guy from Holes and Even Stevens is carrying two major blockbuster, and no one thought twice about it.  You know the producers had to be salivating at the thought of how little they would have to pay for the lead actor on the first movie.  And I mean no disrespect to Mr. LaBoeuf.  I loved Eagle Eye until I found out who the villain was, but c’mon, Transformers broke him.

The real lead in those movies are the CGI puppets. Spider-man? The Hulk? Toby MacGuire and Edward Norton are only on screen half the time. The rest is all CGI. Even Keanu Reeves in the Matrix sequels was replaced by a lot of CGI. The point is, actors are to action movies as musicians are to rap. They provide a nice foundation, but as movies move more and more towards special effects driven fare, more control is placed with the producer. It’s all in the remix and production value, these days. How else do you explain how Timbaland and Kanye West can basically rip off songs by other artists?

Yes, I got all this from watching Team America: World Police.

That’s the other brilliant aspect to this plot device. The climactic scene is to see whether the hero can "act" better than Alec Baldwin. If you had any doubts before, this should assuage them. This movie follows every action convention and beat to the letter. By the second act, the team is in disarray (and the bummer remix of the theme song gets played . . . a VERY important touch), but our plucky hero decides that he can save the day (and his girl) by himself. The fact that the climactic battle with the first villain (there are always two villains) is about "acting" only shows where these guys were coming from all along.

And putting aside the puppet backbone of the movie, the songs are simply fantastic. Freedom Isn’t Free (It Cost Folks Like You And Me), the patriotic country ballad. A song played during a late second-act montage describing a late second-act montage called, "Montage". The love theme? All I Ask Is That You’re A Woman. This movie is the Galaxy Quest of action films. If you want to see the action movie formula laid bare, this is your movie. If you see this movie, you will be able to find a corrolary in every subsequent action film to scenes in this movie.

Even if you watch this movie in horror and disgust.  [Honestly, I cannot stress to you enough how utterly raunchy this movie is.  Even with puppets.  And I don’t really like raunch for the sake of raunch, so it says something for me to recommend this.]  Even if you never laugh more than on the inside, this movie is a force to be reckoned with. It synthesizes every action film before it, and it provides a scorecard for every movie after it. You will be able to relate just about every scene in the movie to some other action movie. It’s what This is Spinal Tap was to rock music history. This movie is a must for anyone who cares about their cinema vocabulary, even if just to react to it. 

And there will NEVER be another movie like it.