Team America

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The plot in a nutshell
Have you ever watched an action hero movie?  Then you know exactly what this film is about - a crack team of heroes, whose sole purpose is to save the world, lose a member in a touching moment.  They recruit a new member from an unlikely background to join them, but he's hesitant at first.  The beautiful woman convinces him, but after a bad experience in their first mission, he turns his back on the team.  The team goes out without him to defeat the evil mastermind, only to be captured.  It's up to our hero to dig deep, look into his soul, and find the will to come back and save them all.

Sound familier?  It should, since we get a dozen action movies just like it every year - and that's absolutely the point of this puppet parody of the genre.  Written and directed by the brains behind South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, it's a hilarious rip on everything wrong with the modern blockbuster movie.

Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
There's nothing really to spoil here, since you've seen this film many times.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't work perfectly, destroying the genre along with the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Mount Rushmore.

If you're going to parody a genre, you better know it inside and out.  Fortunately, it looks like Parker and Stone have seen every goofy action flick ever made, and treat us to a bountiful laugh fest.  The trailers show you almost nothing of the really funny sections of this film, and the movie may be the MOST effective in its purpose when it slows down - there are actually moments in this film where you actually feel like your watching a REAL action movie, only to realize that the satire has just gotten more subtle.

There's the obvious major jokes, and they run all through the film.  It attacks many of the basic premises of most modern action flicks - America is the center of the universe, only we can save the rest of the world, and we always know best.  This film is also a slight political satire, but that's not the main point or purpose.

Yes, they attack the foolishness of the far right, who think violence is always the answer.  And yes, the attack the foolishness of the far left, who think that violence is never the answer.  Mostly, they attack moronic actors, many of whom didn't make it through high school, yet think that once they became famous, they understood the geo-political process so well, that they had to take care of the rest of us.  That's a favorite target of Stone and Parker, and they slam them with both barrels in this film.

Yet the real target here is the action film, and they know their victim very well.  It's not just the obvious jokes, but the subtle ones, that really make this a hilarious film.  Watch how they use the film's score, the camera angles, and the facial expressions of the puppets to remind us just how pathetic, trite and predictable the average Bruckheimer or Bay film really is.

The puppets work well here, and they have focused on giving them extremely realistic facial movements, but retained the silly body movements to remind us that this is all a joke.  Lots of talk has been going around about the puppet sex, supposedly the reason it almost received an NC-17 rating, and I have to admit I laughed hard through the entire scene.  Still, it's funny because it is simply so over the top and ridiculous, and while those scenes are great, you shouldn't ignore the more subtle ways that this film makes fun of Hollywood.

There are the usual share of songs, and while all of them are quite funny, I don't think any of them come close to toppling some of the finer songs in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.  If you'd like to hear one final song that's not in the main film, make sure you wait for all the credits to roll.

Gary's speech at the end of this film ranks up there with George C. Scott's in Patton - and quite surprisingly, makes a lot more sense than I thought it would.  That's part of the danger of the average action film, which takes complex issues and makes them simple enough for the average actor to think they're an expert.

Rating - Laugh your ass off.
Okay, you don't really need to see this on the big screen, although the great scenes and big explosions will look a little better there.  But I haven't laughed this hard in ages, and if you're a big fan of South Park, you'll love it.  If you hate South Park, then move along, because there's nothing here you're going to want to see.  Then again, skip it and you'll never know the true price of freedom...

This is one of those rare films that I know I'll be buying on DVD immediately, because I can't wait to see what had to be cut.  Did someone at the ratings board not realize that these are just puppets?

Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There's nothing to spoil here except the laughs, and only Kim Il Jong would be cruel enough to do that!

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