Review: Team America
Like high school outcasts gatecrashing a party they plan to wreck, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always been mischief-makers par excellence. So, when it was announced that Team America: World Police would be released on the eve of November's US election, it was reasonable to expect some sort of media frenzy.
But mixed reviews and average box office quelled the storm before it began, with friends, fans and probably even critics of the duo a little disappointed that the film wasn’t really political.
Instead of the expected hour and a half of Bush-bashing, what we got was tongue-poking ridicule aimed at the likes of Alec Baldwin and George Clooney.
In hindsight, what did we expect from the most stubborn satirists of our time? Essentially contrary teenagers at heart, the South Park duo were never going to settle for a victim as predictable as Dubya. Not when there were so many other targets to lampoon with their scattergun, inventive, in-your-face smarts.
On second viewing, Team America seems less a satire of "the war on terror" and more a collage of ridicule on everything worthy, pious, gloriously pompous or glamorously dumbass that America has to offer.
And yes, that includes Jerry Bruckheimer movies.
After all, as Parker and Stone are acutely aware, they live in a country where celebrities are so revered that they're asked for their take on foreign policy.
A nation where parts of the population couldn't name a foreign language, never mind speak one (and even the President appeared to struggle with English).
Where TV news stations and documentary makers have their own, splendidly subjective, versions of the truth happily consumed by partisans of each shade.
Ultimately, as with South Park, this is what Parker and Stone are riffing on: American stupidity and charm in all its flavours. And, as usual, they do it both aggressively and affectionately.
Okay, so the film's main villain, Kim Jong-Il, is pretty much just Cartman fully grown. The "badly impersonated" voices are really, really badly impersonated. And some of the victims of Parker and Stone's playground bullying are (hey!) people we like.
But judged as a comedy, more than enough laughs are delivered; as a satire, targets are hit with regular accuracy and as a musical, the soundtrack CD is already an essential purchase (fuck, yeah).
Plus, as commentators on the surreal times we live in, Parker and Stone remain strangely noble, albeit childish, surveyors of the landscape.