‘Team America: World Police’: watch dirty puppets with friends

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At the Team America: World Police screening, they werehanding out many promotional materials, like posters, buttons,wristbands and condoms in packages labeled “To Protect AndServe.” That should tell you something about the movie rightthere.

On one hand, Team America is a brilliant comedy. Add onepart cheesy action movie, two parts puppets, a dash of politicalhumor, mix thoroughly, and you have a recipe for guaranteedhilarity. A high-speed chase with puppet cars is one of thefunniest things you’ll ever see on film. And don’t getme started about the scenes of hand-to-hand combat.

But on the other hand, Team America is very much a TreyParker movie. His “South Park” style of humor is infull force once again. Imagine the most graphic, obscene thing youcould have puppets do. Multiply that by 10. The puppets in TeamAmerica do that. Multiple times. And then throw in some vomit jokesfor good measure.

Team America tells the story of… wait forit… Team America: a crack squad of marionettes who defendthe world from terrorists. In an effort to infiltrate the globalterrorist network, Team America recruits actor Gary Johnston [thestar of the Broadway hit, “Lease”] to impersonate aterrorist and uncover the location of their weapons of massdestruction. Unbeknownst to Team America, but knownst to us, NorthKorean dictator Kim Jong Il is behind the scenes, manipulating theterrorists into bringing about a global apocalypse. Team Americahas to defeat the terrorists and Kim Jong Il, all the while facingthe animosity of the Film Actors Guild [you can figure out theacronym yourself] and a hotdog-wielding Michael Moore.

This movie is a guilty pleasure. The part of me that laughs atold “South Park” episodes was pleased. The part of methat thinks a puppet action movie is the best idea ever waspleased. The part of me that was honestly curious about how in theworld a movie could have a graphic puppet sex scene was pleased tosee that, yes, a graphic puppet sex scene is entirely possible.

Team America actually received an NC-17 rating from theMPAA because of the puppet sex scene, but they trimmed the scenedown to get an R rating. I shudder to think what the uneditedversion was like.

Like “South Park” before it, no one is safe fromTrey Parker’s satiric crosshairs. Simultaneously making funof the stereotypical American tendency to destroy everythingbetween it and the terrorists it hunts and the celebrities whoprotest America’s actions, Team America is anonpartisan movie because everyone is criticized. No one is sparedfrom Trey Parker’s puppety wrath.

The puppets themselves are ripe with comic potential. Thecharacters never let on that they are being dangled about bystrings, which leads to some very surreal moments. Watching apuppet put on a puppet show is a very existential scene to behold.And of course, just watching puppets flail about at each other inthe throes of mortal combat is almost funny enough to carry theentire movie. When these same puppets also carry big guns that theyuse to blow away other puppets, awesome results are sure tofollow.

So in the end, Team America is two movies in one;you’ve got your puppet-political-action-movie comedy andyou’ve got your puppet-gross-out-humor comedy. The movietakes itself so seriously, the gross-out humor almost manages toelevate beyond its simple, immature roots and become a layer ofsocial commentary in itself. Almost. But it’s still a funmovie, definitely something to watch with friends, because ifyou’re going to laugh at two puppets doing dirty things toeach other, it’s best to have other people around to laughwith you.

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