Film Reviews


By • Oct 15th, 2004 •

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Columbia Pictures
Running time — 98 minutes

QUOTE: A raunchy puppet movie with great puppet sex.

The uninitiated are not going to wander into TA:WP looking for social relevance or artistic integrity. South Park’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone set out to make a rude, offensive movie. I wasn’t offended. So, if you are sick of talent-free Paris Hilton and the exploits of lip-synching Esther/Madonna and want to send a message to celebrities and movie stars who’ve been shoved down your throat, why not support puppet acting? Parker and Stone further insult the industry by not even bothering with “voice talent.”

Landmarks in Paris are destroyed when rogue Team America attempts to kill Arab terrorists walking around with a WMD briefcase. Team America’s leader is killed and their handler, Spottswoode (Daran Norris), decides the best new recruit would be a Broadway actor. Since not finding WMDs in Iraq has made our highly vaunted spy network look ridiculous, why not try employing an actor? Gary (Parker) is reluctant to leave his starring role in an AIDS musical but his acting talents are needed to save the world from WMDs. He signs on but, of course, one member of the team hates him.

Team America’s headquarters is inside Mount Rushmore. Gary joins Joe (Parker), a former all-star quarterback, Sarah (Masasa), a psychic, Lisa (Kristen Miller), a psychologist, and Chris (Stone), a martial arts expert. Each has personal issues and strong personalities. After destroying Egypt’s monuments to Mankind – the great pyramid of Khufu and the Sphinx’s head (stand-ins for another cradle of civilization recently decimated by bombs?) – Spottswoode zeroes in on the real mastermind behind world destruction: North Korea’s lonely and misunderstood dictator, chubby Kim Jong Il (Parker).

Jong Il is given his own song and enough screen time to make him a puppet star. In an MTV preview on the making of TA:WP, Parker and Stone insist they are completely besotted with Jong Il. They are convinced Jong Il will love the movie.

Parker and Stone also said the reason they wanted to work with puppets is that they “hate actors.” They exploit this loathing by having a group of puppets, led by Alec Baldwin, form a cabal called Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.) that has insinuated itself into affecting international diplomacy. The F.A.G. comes to North Korea at the invitation of Jong Il. When things do not go their way, they strap on weapons.

Parker and Stone have some personal gripes that cannot be eased with time: they still hate PEARL HARBOR, Ben Affleck, and, for some reason known only to them, Matt Damon.

Damon is rendered in TA:WP as so stupid he can only repeat his name. Do Parker and Stone know something about the co-winner of the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for GOOD WILL HUNTING that the rest of us don’t know?

The story follows the sacred plot of every action-adventure: Lisa and Gary fall in love and have hot sex. Parker and Stone, faithful to their target audience, are still obsessed with male genitalia and the overriding fear teenagers have of engaging in homosexuality. However, for world peace, gay sex is okay.

Nothing about TA:WP is sloppy. This is a first-class production with extravagant attention to the smallest detail. The sets are fantastic and, like Parker and Stone, I liked seeing puppets die bloody deaths. Sean Penn, furious over his puppet portrayal, should enjoy his puppet status and realize that fame has consequences. Parker and Stone are modern court jesters and one of filmdom’s princes should be royally amused.

Gary, Joe, Kim Jong Il, Hans Blix: Trey Parker
Chris, other voices: Matt Stone
Lisa: Kristen Miller
Sarah: Masasa
Spottswoode: Daran Norris

Director: Trey Parker
Screenwriters: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady
Producers: Scott Rudin, Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Executive producers: Scott Aversano, Anne Garefino
Director of photography: Bill Pope
Production designer: Jim Dultz
Visual consultant: David Rockwell
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Co-producers: Michael Polaire, Frank Agnone
Costumes: Karen Patch
Editor: Thomas M. Vogt

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