Team America: World Police

I had a nightmare last night. The whole world came down with Tickle-Me-Elmo syndrome and everyone was rioting for copies of “Team America: World Police” while I sat at home watching on the news. Wayne Garcia and crew appeared in my living room and, while praising the merits of “Team America,” revealed to the world that one humorless asshole had given the film a bad review: me.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone make political commentary with marionettes – what the hell could possibly be funnier, right?

As it turns out, a lot of things. Team America is a band of 100% American fool-hardies sworn to protect the world from terrorists. Broadway star Gary Johnston is recruited by the team to use his acting talents to infiltrate a band of terrorists in Cairo. After defeating them, it becomes clear that someone else is behind a plot for world domination – Northern Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. He’s teamed up with a Baldwin (I forget which one) and F.A.G., the Film Actors’ Guild, to detonate weapons of mass destructions placed around the globe.

Parker and Stone can usually find a good enough balance between idiotic and witty humor to have appeal for the lowest common denominator while still giving the halfway-intelligent something to laugh their asses off over (sometimes with the same joke), but this time that scale falls over, yells “pig fucker” and explodes. Most of the funny stuff happens early on and from there it’s all puke, explosions, blowjobs and lots and lots of fecal matter.

If the plot doesn’t do anything for you, the puppets probably will (for awhile). The attention to detail is amazing, right down to the marionettes’ crow’s feet. The amazing sets are packed with fascinating miniature props and many of the details are funny – the blinking suitcases of mass destruction that the terrorists cart around with them like purses, the finale of the musical starring Gary (“Lease” and the song “Everyone has AIDS”) and the stilted kung fu fighting of marionettes with a limited range of motion. But the film persists with the “Oh golly, aren’t marionettes silly” long past the point of funny.

The rest of the movie is just a lot of cheap shots – Michael Moore stuffing his face with fried chicken and Kim Jong Il singing “I’m so Ronery” – where there is already so much to make fun of.

“Team America” too quickly crosses the line between making fun of the genre and becoming it. It begins as a parody of people in the United States and our patriotic nonsense, of our made-to-be-easily-translated-for-foreign-audiences action films, of our love for physical humor and ends as just that, a silly action movie, except at times cheesy lines like “You won’t get away with this!” are replaced by “Suck my balls, you butt-fucking son of a bitch.” The rest of the time it’s a just another comedy that shovels in all the jokes that will fit, figuring everyone is bound to laugh at something.

And where the hell was George Bush? And where was the witty political message? A speech at the end of the film summed up everything for me. It was an analogy involving terrorists and their relationship to the United States – something about pussies, dicks and assholes, of course – and while it could be argued that this was one last jab at stupid humor or our silly attitudes about terrorism or a combination of both, I suspect not. I suspect it’s just Trey Parker and Matt Stone using shitty jokes to hide the fact that they aren’t saying anything at all.