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Team America: World Police

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
Team America: World Police
from Film Forum, 10/21/04

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the irreverent jokesters behind the hugely popular animated series South Park, are back on the big screen with their first puppet-driven extravaganza. And, true to form, Team America: World Police is an assault of crass, boundary-free humor that takes shots at everyone from Hollywood political activists to terrorists, even as it lampoons every action movie cliché in the book

And yet, while it's a rare comedy that targets liberals as vehemently as most target conservatives, Christian film critics are almost unanimous in their condemnation of the flick.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) sees the film as a step down from the South Park movie. "Parker and Stone, after so cavalierly thumbing their noses at those who find profanity unbecoming and unworthy of a sophisticated society, prove that they haven't matured much in five years. What's more, their irresponsibility in the way they utilize the free speech they have the privilege to claim is shameful. These anatomically incorrect puppets engage in non-stop profanity, simulated sexual activity, and graphic violence. The question which remains is not whether the film is funny or good … but rather is it appropriate for this time? It is difficult to imagine the insensitivity involved in a project … where characters, puppets though they be, are bloodily beheaded for comedic purposes."

Tom Neven (Plugged In) writes, "Content issues don't bother very many film critics, though, and most give Team America rave reviews. Anything so irreverent that skewers so many sacred cows is bound to be popular with reviewers. But this movie has much less to do with rocking boats than it has to do with insulting as many people as possible, and such ham-handed satire gives legitimate satire a bad name. Team America could have been a very funny movie, but Parker and Stone have no respect for anything or anyone."

Douglas Downs (Christian Spotlight) says it's "the MOST tasteless movie I have ever seen. (Is there a law against 'puppet abuse'?) It is extremely profane, and it takes all the 'pop' out of pop culture entertainment."

But Chris Utley (Hollywood Jesus) has a different response: "It is clear why this film will appeal to the high-school/20-something set. Even some of the 30-something folks will dig it. Let's face facts: the movie is hilarious! The stuff they do with these puppets is hilarious! The lyrics in the musical numbers are gut-busting! The one-liners are sidesplitting! The Michael Moore 'cameo' is outrageous! Like I said, it's rude, crude and laugh-out-loud funny! It's definitely among the funniest movies of the year. I'm recommending the flick … but only for the thick-skinned among us who have strong convictions and are open-minded with their comedy choices." He goes on to list his reasons for defending the film from its detractors.

At the very same Web site, Kevin Miller argues, "Despite all of these positive points, the main problem with this film is that these guys just don't seem to know when to stop." He then addresses the filmmakers directly. "In many ways, Team America was a brilliant film. But your propensity for crudity severely compromised the positive contribution this film could have made. At best, Team America offers a veneer of social commentary and some cheap laughs. But it could have done much, much more."

Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily) stakes out some middle ground. "It would be hard to deny the impressive production values of the movie. The marionette action is delightful, the sets are wonderfully constructed, and the way Parker and Stone satirize action-movie clichés is spot-on. The filmmakers are no doubt talented … but most of the content is simply inappropriate for young minds, and some would say any minds. Don't be fooled by the marionettes, and don't take the kids."

Many mainstream critics are welcoming this barrage of irreverent humor.