Team America: World Police

Team America: World Police (2004)
Paramount Home Video
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Storyboards

Trey Parker and Matt Stone are once again applying their crude humor to a feature film as opposed to some South Park episode. And once again the result is a remarkable and hilarious movie that breaks with all convention and has a very distinct signature. "Team America: World Police" is the film and it is coming to DVD now from Paramount Home Entertainment. One of the most exciting things about it is that "Team America" is in actuality a puppet film, completely cast with marionettes and entirely modeled scenery. This prospect alone was enough to get me excited since it must have been 25 years since I last saw a marionette movie. But don’t be fooled by its initial appearance, "Team America" is not a children’s film – not at all. It has a very serious note throughout, tons of gratuitous violence and bloodshed, endless swearing and one of the most explicit puppet sex scenes you will ever get to see. Well, after all, it is a Parker and Stone movie.

"Team America" is a world police of sorts, dedicated to fight terrorism. But in their doing so they become entirely absorbed in their mission goals as to worry about the actual world around them. The movie begins with them tacking down four middle-eastern terrorists in Paris, and they get them, but their reckless attitude lays pretty much all of Paris to waste. As a result, a growing public outrage requests their resigning, but again, "Team America" is too occupied to even notice.
They are hiring actor Gary Johnston to impersonate a Middle-Eastern terrorist, infiltrate their camp and find out about their plans to destroy Western society. But as it turns out, the evil is not spreading from the Middle-East but from North Korea, where narcissistic dictator Kim Jong Il is planning to turn the entire world into a third world country to level the playing field for all of mankind. It is up to Team America to save the world.

Everything about "Team America: World Police" is remarkable. Even if you don’t like the crude gross-out and irreverent sense of humor, it is hard not to be impressed by the scale and achievement that this film represents. As the filmmakers point out in the supplements found on the DVD, the goal was to make a mindless Jerry Bruckheimer-style movie with puppets. And that’s what it is. A bombastic action adventure with explosions and shoot-outs galore, a bit of romance and grandiose locations.

The marionettes themselves are remarkable, using fully animatronic heads, these puppets have the full range of facial expressions, giving them the opportunity to add a lot more personality to their acts – too much at times as we can also learn from the DVD’s supplements, so that the filmmakers had to actually scale the expressions back in order to maintain the marionette-style. Stylistic decisions like these, which also includes the decision not to remove the puppet wires and rods, shows a lot of maturity on Parker’s and Stone’s behalf. They had a very clear vision for this film and pulled it through no matter what.

The sets are absolutely breathtaking in their detail and scale as well and once again the supplements on the DVD will help you appreciate the effort that went into this production a lot more. Incidentally, it will also, invite you to start spotting all those little gimmicky objects that made it in to the picture.

The majority of voices for the puppets are provided by Trey Parker and Matt Stone and it is sometimes hard to believe how they manage to create such a wide variety of timbres.

Paramount Home Entertainment has prepared a wonderful <$PS,widescreen> presentation for this film that is absolutely flawless and free of blemishes. The image detail is remarkable, bringing out every little piece of information in the image at all times. Colors are rich and vibrant making sure everything is awash in color adding to the stylized look of the film. Black levels are absolutely solid and firmly root the image visually. Shadow definition is excellent and never breaks up. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts are evident.

The audio on the release is a powerful <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track that makes very aggressive use of the surround channels. The approach to the track once again reflects the filmmakers’ desire to mimic a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, including the grandeur of the sound mix and its aggressive use. A wide frequency response offers rumbling basses and clear high ends without distortion. Dialogues are perfectly balanced and always understandable. The trademark off-beat lyric sound track found in all Parker/Stone films is also presented perfectly. Make sure to really listen to the lyrics and you will get a good number of extra laughs and kicks out of this film in particular.

The DVD is also not skimpy when it comes to the extras but for some reason no <$commentary,commentary track> has been provided, which comes as a disappointment, of course. I am sure Parker and Stone would have had a lot to say about this production and I am not quite sure why such a track has been omitted.

Fortunately the featurettes that are included on the release make up for that quite nicely. Each one focuses on a different aspect of the production, giving you a well-rounded look at the movie as a whole. In these featurettes you will get a good look at the creation and mechanics of the puppets, as well as how the performance of them was a challenge at times given the scope of the production and the filmmaker’s constant ad hoc changes to the script. Also included are looks at the production design to learn how the sets for the film were created. You will learn about the costumes for the marionettes, the explosions and other things related to the movie. It is all very well done and very exciting, in part because it all relates to a different kind of movie.

A selection of deleted and alternate scenes is also included on the disc, some of which hare funny, others no so much. Puppet test footage is also included, showing you the filmmakers used these tests to refine the acting and behavior of the puppets early one before the started shooting the actual movie. The release is rounded out by trailers and storyboards.

Parker’s and Stone’s sense of humor is not everyone’s bag – far from it. To me it is often a bit too offensive for its own good but with each one of their feature films I get to appreciate their total irreverence a bit more. "Team America: World Police" was a daring undertaking and I amazed at how well it succeeds. The combination of offensive humor, puppet action, over the top dialogues and lyrics create an experience that is uproariously funny. The movie may be a bit slow and melodramatic at times – deliberately so I assure you – but the next payoff is usually just right around the corner… big time. And I can assure you, you haven’t seen anything like it before, ever. Here’s hoping that there will indeed be a sequel to this film, or maybe a different themed film using the same technology and personality, mocking a different genre. Just imagine the possibilities… a real horror movie spoof with marionettes… or a buddy movie with puppets… Anyway, "Team America: World Police" is a lot of fun and you owe it to yourself to check it out.