When it comes to spoofs and sending up tropes, few are as talented at it as Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The duo behind South Park, Baseketball, and Team America: World Police, are skilled at taking whatever society is praising or being warped by this week and completely shitting all over it. With Team America, the two of them, along with South Park writing partner Pam Brady, go after the post-9/11 landscape of a country trying to “police the world” and the critics and defenders these actions came with.
Released in 2004, Team America World Police is a marionette starring satire of big budget action movies and a reflection of the global politics taking place at the time. The story follows the escapades of a team of paramilitary policemen attempting to save the world from terrorist attacks and often causing more damage then preventing. When the team loses their fourth member, Carson, the team scrambles to replace him by hiring an actor named Gary to infiltrate the terrorist homebase and find out where they’re keeping WMDs.
Team America is quick-witted and sharp in its deconstruction of the action movie while poking fun at both the pro-America and peace & understanding rhetorics that were heavy at the time. From the fake music scores permeating throughout to the by-the-numbers action film structure it abides by, Team America tackles every joke it can make. The marionettes themselves, while carefully designed and structured, always make sure to never let you forget that they’re still puppets.
Revisiting the movie, I’m instantly reminded of America in 2004. While it is indeed a movie very much of its time (the appearance of Kim Jong-Il is dated enough already), for the most part it acts as a capsule of that time. I remember vividly how “controversial” it was because of the puppet-on-puppet sex scene and it’s amusing to watch it now and think that the MPAA had a stick up its ass over something as silly as that. What has stuck with me the most is the original music made by Matt and Trey, who have an uncanny ability to make great–and hilarious–music. “America: Fuck Yea!”, “What Would You Do?” or even the one about how Pearl Harbor sucked (which it did) are all just as good as some of the best songs to come out of South Park, and they’ll probably be stuck in my head for next month after this past rewatch of the film.
Team America: World Police works as a film because it never tries to take itself seriously, yet there is still love and affection given to its team of well-meaning yet sometimes counterproductive secret agency. In pure Matt & Trey fashion it, of course, comes with a lesson (a lesson expressed through a dick-pussy-asshole metaphor); is it the most agreeable thing in the world? Probably not. But that’s not what’s important, what is important is that Team America tries to make the case that those pro-war advocates are just as necessary as the anti-war brigade and that the two groups need each other. Team America is crue and ridiculous but most of all it is hilarious and well worth seeking out or enjoying again.