(Non)Sense & (Non) Sensibility
Rob Levy
10/26/2004 10:04:42 AM


Trey Parker & Matt Stone have never been known for their subtlety. For most of the last decade, the duo has taken swipes at just about everything and everyone on South Park. Therefore, it is a surprise to no one that their latest film, Team America: World Police has irked everyone from the MPAA to the President to Sean Penn. In fact, no one in Hollywood has made a better living at pushing the right buttons than Parker and Stone.

The plot is pretty simple. An elite anti-terrorist group, Team America, recruits Gary Johnston, the finest actor on Broadway to infiltrate a sinister Middle Eastern terror network before they harm an unsuspecting America. Led by the smarmy, cocktail drinking Agent Spotswoode, Team America undertakes dangerous missions to protect unsuspecting Americans from tyranny, terror, danger and general badness. The team has everything a super fighting force needs to be successful; a gung-ho pilot, a skilled psychic and an actor-resenting super soldier bent on mayhem. However, it is their gorgeous female spy Lisa who catches Gary’s eye and persuades him to join Team America. Lisa is a woman with serious damage who doesn’t want to mix work with pleasure. Her splintered past is littered with sadness and danger and she clearly wants none of that again. Sparks fly when she meets Gary embark on a tenuous romance that threatens to rip Team America apart. Meanwhile Team America suffers from bad press and liberal protestations at home.

Their trashing of Paris and Cairo doesn’t sit well with America’s entertainment industry that mobilizes behind Alec Baldwin to rid the nation of the imperialist Team America. Hollywood luminaries like Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Helen Hunt and Matt Damon abet Baldwin’s crusade against Team America. What they don’t know is that a dangerous and devious puppet master, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, is manipulating a misguided Baldwin and his unsuspecting acting peers. Kim Jong Il is a seriously lonely guy who is bent on destroying Team America and fostering worldwide terrorism. His machinations lead not only to the capture of Team America, but also take America to the brink of doom. But just as things seem bad for Team America they see the forest for the trees and come together as a team. As the nation’s darkest hour nears, Gary overcomes his personal conflicts and works with a downtrodden Spotswoode to save the team. A regrouped Team America pulls itself together and defeats both Baldwin’s liberal whack jobs and the devious Communist despot.

Technically Team America is not perfect. It is a sloppily paced, jaggedly shot and
quickly edited film. Nonetheless, it is a crass, rude, abrasive, irreverent, politically charged action comedy that manages to brilliantly mock Hollywood action films, musicals and Bond-esque spy thrillers while turning the rah-rah patriotism of the war on terror on its ear.

Despite this, Team America is a work of biting contemporary social commentary and insight. With this film, Parker and Stone say a great deal about our politics, our entertainment and our media. These roustabouts have masterfully gotten the hackles of The United Nations, the US Military and both conservatives and liberal alike in a dither.

Parker and Stone take no prisoners and play both sides to unveil the absurd, poking fun at Rent, Star Wars, Fahrenheit 911 and Kill Bill along the way. The use of puppets allows them to go completely over the top while illustrating society’s desensitization to bloody violence, gore, war and death. They even mock the jingoistic spirit of films like Top Gun and Pearl Harbor by having a soundtrack that fits neatly around their sarcasm and senseless blasphemy.

The fun of Team America lies in the fact that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have taken all that is sacrosanct in our culture and lifted it off a pedestal. In doing so, they have made a statement of epic proportions. Despite playing fast and loose with style and story Team America is the foulest, funniest and most perversely deviant joy of the fall movie season



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