The movie begins in the dark reaches of outer space, where gleaming steel blocks of text boldly announce that “Team America” has arrived. Borrowing from the artistic palette of a professional wrestling commercial, the boulders collide and explode before dropping the viewer into a quaint Parisian day. Straight out of a Nazi propaganda film, a wide-eyed Aryan child is skipping through an amazingly fake Paris street until — gasp — he bumps into an Arab, or in this case, a terrorist!
Before the middle-eastern villain can spray the crowd with bullets, Team America magnanimously saves the day. A roaring fleet of star-spangled aircraft descends on Paris and unloads its precious cargo of blue-eyed Power Rangers. “Hey terrorist,” yells Lisa, the female lead, “Terrorize this!” Dialogue could not be more refreshingly lame, an example of the ways in which “Team America” soars.
Parker and Stone create something completely novel and ridiculous by recycling the laughable cliches of the action movie genre. Their film is essentially a sarcastic buffet of bad plots, action sequence, and sly political commentary.
For example, in a scene set in the neon wasteland of Time Square, a Broadway actor belts out “Everyone Has AIDS” in the show “Lease.” Known for his unparalleled acting skills, Gary is recruited to the team to work undercover as an evil terrorist. In their secret lair, somewhere in the bowels of Mount Rushmore, Gary decides to use his prodigious talent for the benefit of the world (or rather, America.)
Besides the bombastic flag-waving heroes of Team America, the film provides many other outlets for hilarity. There’s Kim Jong Il, who has a penchant for scary home-video-like political messages and Duran-Duran-inspired fashion. Parker and Stone ruthlessly exaggerate his already insane personality: With a butchered accent and a nasally pitch, Kim prances around his North Korean palace while using the Arab terrorists as pawns in his game of war (perhaps “America” borrows the logic of President Bush.)
Frustrated at the incompetence of his peers, Jong Il wanders his palace in sumptuous self-reflection, crooning “I So Ronrey.” Parker and Stone, borrowing from James Bond movies, portray the bizarre ruler as an eccentric bad guy, complete with a tank of man-eating sharks who happily consume weapons inspector Hans Blix.
Branching out from the “Daka-laka-laka” Arab schtick, which gets old quickly, Parker and Stone harvest more international stereotypes for the audience to savor. After the team botches their intelligence mission in Cairo, the terrorists successfully bomb the Panama Canal and flood the city. In one of the comic highlights of the film, a confused Panamanian, embroiled in the calamity of the deluge, clutches his truck and screams “No me gusta!”
Parker and Stone know how to raise the offensiveness of their stereotypes to a concert pitch, though everything remains in good fun. However, despite its efforts to deride America’s Saturday-morning-cartoon foreign policy, the movie manages to omit the one person you’d expect to see. In the midst of the hilarious songs and graphic sex scenes, one wonders, where’s Bush? In fact, despite its growing infamy, “Team America” manages to be shockingly moderate. After lampooning patriotic country music anthems and the corpulent Michael Moore, the president’s immunity from flippant mockery is a true surprise.
But despite that absence, the movie showcases a plethora of amusing idiots by exploiting one of America’s few liberal bastions: Hollywood. Celebrities such as Tim Robbins and Janeane Garafolo hose down the media with their trite opinions on how America should not intervene in Kim Jong Il’s conflict, which is not far from an equally-amusing reality. Parker and Stone obviously enjoy poking fun at the two, who are brought to a bloody demise by the heroic Team America. When else do you get the chance to see idealistic leftist Susan Sarandon obliterated by marionettes?
While the film is tremendously entertaining and manages to raise serious questions about America’s absurd foreign policy, the movie ultimately makes no profound political statements. But while the film’s deficit of political spin might come as a disappointment to some, it is a masterpiece of bad cinema: the ultimate action film of cliches. Predictably, even in social satire, Parker and Stone are at their best when sophomoric and raunchy.