Branching out is never easy, especially if you are a staple in pop culture like Trey Parker and Matt Stone. With the explosion of "South Park" in 1997, animation and comedy were changed forever. What began as a show many dismissed as crude humor, the "South Park" franchise evolved into a satire machine. Politicians, Jesus, and even the show itself are brought front and center for all to laugh at. Moving on to "Orgazmo", success was much more limited. It has more of a cult following, getting most attention from its link to "South Park". "Team America: World Police" gives the duo an outlet that is fresh enough to shake the hold Cartman and the gang has had for the past eight years. Marionettes and a familiar action movie plotline open a creative outlet that has been a hit with fans. With a recent move to UMD, Trey Parker and Matt Stone latest movie has gone mobile. Does the title have enough merit to string you along for a purchase? Let's take a look.
"Team America: World Police" is not for everyone. With their trademark offensive humor in place, the switch from animation to marionettes was genius. It gave an original look to big budget, mindless, blockbuster summer movies by making fun of them. No stone is left unturned in the onslaught as characters from all walks of life are mocked. It is fearless satire that manages to place sexually charged comedy and profanity into nearly every scene. An open mind is a necessity for viewing "Team America". Personally, I felt "South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut" won the award for being more offensive, but "Team America" is a close second. The movie will certainly ruffle the feathers of those who take life a bit too seriously.
The sheer genius of the film is the music with titles ranging from "Everyone Has AIDS" to "Freedom Isn't Free". While most songs are not family friendly, there is no denying their overall quality. "South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut" had a song nominated for an Academy Award ("Blame Canada") and the tracks in "Team America: World Police" manage to place their stamp on a scene without feeling forced. The lyrics beg to be listened to and the musical styles are changed up to match the onscreen action. Who could forget "Only A Woman" or "Montage"? Even the oft overplayed "Magic Carpet Ride" manages to surface, adding to the touch of the action film parody. I can't see many people blasting the film's soundtrack in their cars, but the tunes certainly stick with you long after the movie has ended.
As with the "Spider Man 2" UMD, "Team America: World Police" has been modified to fill out he PSP screen. With an original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Paramount has zoomed into a 1.78:1 ratio for its UMD release. The differences are fairly minimal, but purists will notice the cropped picture. On the positive side, the picture quality is a sight to behold. The background details are intact, even on the small screen. You can see just how well Gary blends in when he gets the 'Middle Eastern Makeover' as well as the marionette strings which were playfully left in tact. The clarity of the UMD format never ceases to amaze me with striking color and crystal clear picture. It says a lot for a 4.3" screen when a small detail like string manages to show up as well as it did in the theater.
Sound is an area where the UMD has some minor flaws. Considering the style of the movie, the action side of things is a bit limited by the PSP audio options I have. Faceplate speakers are automatically eliminated since they have a difficult time balancing the effects, music, and dialogue. The earphone options were nice. The overall sound was full of details not imaginable on the faceplate speakers. The i.Sound amplified speakers are the way to go. They provide a deep bass that gives depth to the explosions and gunfire without distorting other aspects of sound. The i.Sound may not be as compact, but it will give the movie a great boost if the people around you don't mind the coarse humor.
I had a blast watching "Team America: World Police". It is a bold satire regarding the shape of the United States. Mixing uncouth humor with marionettes separates Trey Parker and Matt Stone from their usual "South Park" animation, eliminating the 'been there, done that' feel. The UMD supports great audio with great explosions and catchy music. The visual presentation of the 'R' rated cut of the film looks nice, but is altered to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I hope PSP owners recognize the style of humor is not for everyone. I can only imagine the uproar if "Team America" is heard by unsuspecting listeners in public.