The high point of the last weekend I had wasn't
video games - in fact, I played almost no video games at all, with the
exception of some Guilty Gear Isuka. The high point was getting out to
the movies and seeing
Team America: World Police. (trailer available from
apple.com) Team America is of course the latest movie offering (the
fourth now) from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creative geniuses
behind the animated series South Park. True to form, the movie goes out
of its way to offend people - but it's an equal opportunity offender.
Hollywood actors that believe their fame makes them authorities,
overzealous policing and military policies, terrorists, Michael Moore...
nothing is held back, everything is satirized.
Despite this, the movie will probably not see
an Academy Award nomination, as South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
did. Heck, given that they went after big members of the Screen Actors
Guild (thinly disguised as the Film Actors Guild and referred to
constantly with the appropriate acronym), it might just get them
blackballed for a few years. Which is too bad, because the movie does an
amazing number of things right.
The first thing the movie does right is special
effects. Yes, they're using marionettes. Yes, you can see the wires.
Yes, when they walk - or fight - it's with the traditional jerky
marionette movements, on a scale even worse than old puppet-animation
shows like Thunderbirds. Despite this, they spent an enormous amount of
time making the faces believable; they're not just wooden heads with
flapping mouths, but complex animatronics that are manipulated to show
emotions incredibly well. The scenery sets open up wonders too; except
for moments when the movie deliberately breaks the fourth wall (I'd tell
you, but it'd be a spoiler) the sets are amazingly, intricately
decorated. Even when obviously puppetry, there's something just wrong
about seeing Paris destroyed, followed by Team America telling the
French "it's okay, we've stopped the terrorists."
In terms of music, just like in South Park (and
with one transplanted song, the "montage" song from the South Park
episode "Asspen"), there's brilliance at work. The music is campy,
cheesy, and of course without shame; whether it's the roll-out music
("America, fuck yeah"), the opinings of "Roneryness" from Kim Jong-Il
(they used the patented "City Wok" voice for him), or the "love song"
about how badly Pearl Harbor sucked, it's at once compelling and
The real brilliance of the movie isn't its use
of animatronics or music however - it's the irreverence, the behavior
that has made Parker and Stone lasting pop icons. It's the same behavior
that keeps South Park fresh; when the old formula (Oh my God, they
killed Kenny) got old, they just up and replaced it - nevermind that the
fans were against it at first, it made the show better. Pride in their
work and never ignoring a possible joke are what made South Park:
Bigger, Longer and Uncut golden, what made Baseketball funny, and they
work here too. It's like watching the Kentucky Fried Movie; even if you
know, based on what you know of the creators, what is coming next it's
Irreverence isn't everything, of course.
Without serious movies and events to make fun of, there'd be very little
to it. And unlike previous offerings, Team America probably won't seem
as fresh and funny a few years from now. But the important thing is that
we laugh and enjoy - the irreverence is what puts it all in perspective.
Got Comments? Send 'em to
Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!