Team America: World Police, written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Scott Rudin and directed by Parker, is a full-blown satire of America. It involves Gary Johnston, an actor who is hired by Team America to fight terrorists controlled by Kim Jong-il.
What do you get if you cross years of media jizzing to America and two Atheistswho make fun of anything stupid they come across? Team America: World Police. It is a satire from every angle possible. The movie doesn’t try to be its own thing and also make points through mockery. Instead, it’s a strong commitment to being a deep-rooted satire is what makes it stand on its own. It doesn’t just poke fun at the subject matter, it rips it to shreds exposing the truth. The topic of ‘ ‘MERICA!’ is taken a jab at as a whole. While the main focus is American media’s representation of America, they also point out flaws in American celebrities’ egos and America’s flawed need to ‘police’ the world. Hence the title. Genius.
This is the definition of smart comedy. It’s ingrained very naturally in everything; movements, dialogue and visual gags. Even if nothing funny is said, the realisation of what the scene means is enough to keep you snickering constantly. Every joke is layered beautifully in that way. They’re also layered in the sense that there are multiple interpretations. For example, Gary is disguised as a terrorist with his skin poorly darkened and face smothered in hair. It’s a stab at America’s perception of all terrorists and calls them stupid enough to be fooled by this. Most punchlines rely on exaggeration, but just enough gags subvert your expectations, so it doesn’t get monotonous too quick. It’s the kind of humour that shouldn’t work on paper but does because of the performances. Everything comes together to create something that’s more than the sum of its parts.
Of course, the characters are amplified stereotypes of typical caricatures. Gary is an actor who is only praised because he acts. Not well, just acts. But its shown as so great that everyone is gaga over him; a stab at idolization of celebrities. His past constantly haunts him, as action heroes always need lazily written depth. Gary also falls in love with the lead female, leading to a scene nobody expected to see in their lives. Because, of course, a guy and girl in a movie? And they’re gonna stay platonic? lol.
Other characters of Team America: World Police conform to this too. The main female denies her feelings for Gary (such conflict). There is a love triangle present (much emotion). The guy who hates Gary is an asshole so obviously he’s introduced playing pool (wow). They extract so much humour out of the Spottswoode, the chief of the team. He is so exaggerated and oblivious that you can’t stop laughing. His chair moves constantly because this character must be dramatized in some way or the other. What’s special is that everyone’s motivations for doing bizarre stuff actually make sense. They’re far more solid than some movies that actually try to be serious. Genius.
The best character is Eric Cartm- Kim Jon-il, the over-the-top dictator. Again, layered as hell. His accent satirizes American perception of Asians and the hyperbole is just hilarious. His mansion is complete with a throne, killer sharks and a statue of himself. The character oozes evil and they STILL manage to make you empathize with him. His minions are the terrorists who are established at pure killing machines who speak gibberish. Do I even need to point out the commentary there?
No praise does the script and direction of Team America: World Police justice. The writing style of moving the plot forward using ‘so’ and ‘but’ instead of ‘and then’ creates an organic pace. The story is given a natural progression as each event plays into the next. There is actual tension in some sequences (released by blaring patriotic music, obviously). The final monologue is a masterstroke of writing. It encapsulates human philosophy in the rarest way I have seen till date. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face, but not in the way you might think. Again, genius.
The D.O.P is the legendary Bill Pope. He shoots the film as a dramatic action story. It not only provides aesthetic beauty, but the dramatization also works toward the satire being even funnier. There are actual crane shots that make the film seem like live-action. It may look like there is not much work put into it, but on second thought you realise the tight planning and creativity at play here.
The puppet work is honestly, masterful. When you hear about puppets in a film, you might think they’re old-school style. The opening shots start with one of those and pans out to reveal a more detailed puppet controlling it. Instantly solidifying this movie isn’t going to be what you expected. Apparently, they had fully motorized heads and its shows. Their range of emotion exceeds anything Arjun Rampal has done till date. The attention to detail is extremely effective. The blinking and head movements actually make them seem like real actors. The settings are so exaggerated as well, keeping up the deep-rooted nature of the satire. The immersion created by all these elements is commendable.
Toward the middle, the film drags a little bit. This is obviously done, again, to poke fun at how most movies do this too. But it’s at this point that the realisation of what they’re doing doesn’t remain as fresh anymore. Both of these combined do mess with the flow of the film. This style of humour really lends itself more to a shorter runtime, so the escalation is quicker, like South Park. But that still doesn’t detract from the hilarity and they do manage to keep you more than interested.
Team America: World Police is…ingenious. It proves how satire should be done; with a firm, unshakeable commitment. Every moment is crafted to seem layered and funny at the same time. There’s a sense of predictability, yet you feel like wanting to know what happens next, or rather how it happens. It has way more artistic value than the surface level tone it takes. The makers take the worst parts of American media and make them the best. They even manage to make musical numbers fun. An immense achievement.
We need comedy like this. That gives you a great time yet points out what is wrong with everyday things that surround us. Usually, this kind of criticism is blatant and unearned; it just amplifies flaws and doesn’t give a solution for them. This film is the answer to that mentality. If criticism must be done, shouldn’t it be done like this?
Further Reading –
I’m a film student who wants to talk about movies. Currently specializing in film editing. Huge fan of Edgar Wright, Ricky Gervais, and comedy in general.