I can see the appeal in a movie like Team America: World Police. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the reasoning behind some people enjoying it. Watching stereotypical copies or parodies of real life people or personnel being as vulgar and offensive as possible while being made fun of themselves — yeah, I can see why people can find that funny. And then there’s how the movie makes fun of America, and, let’s face it, making fun of America is often funny.
It’s no surprise then that the best parts of the movie are when America is the central target behind the gun loaded with insults. The opening scene is a great example of this, as our lead characters, (a group of people called “Team America”), try to stop four terrorists in France, resulting in far more damage than the terrorists could have caused themselves. At some point in the near future, we end up in their base where a new recruit, an actor named Gary Johnston, is being briefed on a new plan. There are more terrorists, and the only way to stop them is with impressive acting skills. At least, this is what we are told. The characters all agree that it’s Team America’s job to be the world’s police, and at this point it becomes completely clear where the title comes from.
However, this is one of the last times that America is the brunt of the invectives. Now we’re taking shots at Hollywood action/disaster movies. The terrorist plot ends up centering on two groups, both of whom want “peace” for the world. Kim Jong-Il has the weapons and the means to use them, while the Film Actors Guild is used to lure all the world leaders into North Korea for reasons that are never really explicitly stated. Both of these groups play out as the bad guys, even though the Actors Guild is tricked and Kim Jong-Il doesn’t really do all that much except threaten to push a couple of buttons. There’s little tension or drama throughout, but maybe that’s part of the point.
I don’t think I would have a problem with a movie making fun of America for its entire runtime. Let me clarify: I don’t think I’d have a problem with a movie making fun of anything for its entire runtime, but some things are better to use as cannon fodder than others. Take, for example, this movie. Most of the time, it acts as a simple parody of Hollywood blockbusters. You can expect parodies to use clichés and draw attention to the fact that they’re using them, just so that it seems insightful. This sounds like it could work on paper, but in reality, it falls flat.
See, Hollywood blockbusters can typically get away with these clichés because the audience allows them to. Sure, it gets tiresome when you see the same type of shot used for the umpteenth time in the same position, but if you’re into the movie it usually doesn’t matter. With a satire, you’re expected to be tired of this set-up, but then you’re given it regardless. It’s like if you were to tell me that you didn’t like being poked, and then I poked you anyway, but I did it wearing a clown costume. That’s what this film felt like to me: A repeated poking after I told it to stop.
This could possibly be forgiven if the jokes were funny or if it was actually as offensive as the marketing suggested. I’ll admit, there are some funny parts like the running gag involving actor Matt Damon or a song that mocked Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor, but apart from a few good moments, I wasn’t laughing. I also wasn’t shocked by the content on-screen, except for one scene that involved bodily fluids in a way that you probably wouldn’t expect. Oh, and there’s one scene that has someone vomit for 2-3 minutes. Was I offended by that? No. Was I bored? Most definitely.
One of the best things I can say about Team America is that I didn’t hate the voices of the characters. It’s a film that uses mannequins instead of real actors, and had voice actors fill-in. The people who created it, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady, (best known for creating South Park), also provided many of the voices. I dislike South Park primarily because of how annoying the voices are. This film doesn’t have that problem, thankfully, otherwise I might not have been able to get through it.
The controlled mannequins are interesting. They’re not always well animated — walking is especially painful to watch — but they’re unique. Just by their look, they can almost hold your attention, because you’re unlikely to see something similar any time soon. If you must watch this film, the unique visual style — even if the way it was shot was reminiscent of many different Hollywood films — will be what you take away from it.
Team America: World Police isn’t a film you need to watch. The main reason for this is that it relies — almost on a scene-to-scene basis — on Hollywood clichés that you’ve already grown tired of. Almost every scene in this movie will have been seen many times before. Making fun of these scenes quickly grows tired. It opens well and quickly loses steam, but at least the voice actors weren’t annoying. The visual style is also unique, so if you can handle the mundane experience that is watching this movie, then you can appreciate that style. But somehow, I’m unsure if that’s even possible.