Claudia Leisinger


Tame America.

Dir: Trey Parker
Cast: voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Daran Norris, Kristen Miller
Certificate: 15
Out: January 14th 2005


After losing a member whilst thwarting an attack on Paris, elite anti-terrorist squad Team America calls in Broadway actor Gary to help combat potential global disaster from the twin threats of Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and Alec Baldwin’s misguided Film Actors Guild (F.A.G)…

Who would have thought that the fearlessly inventive, ceaselessly offensive creators of South Park would turn their sights on the current War on Terror and totally lose their nerve? Any film, even a puppet piss-take, that lets Jerry Bruckheimer and Susan Sarandon get it in the neck (literally in the latter’s case) but allows every politician apart from a crazed Asian dictator off the hook comes with some serious strings attached.

Admittedly gobs and spurts of Team America are uproarious. Wooden marionettes jiggling around a Top Gun-like flick is inherently goofy and the amazing sets, from Cairo to the Mount Rushmore HQ, are mini-marvels. Individual gags such as newcomer Gary’s terrorist disguise and the suicide device he’s handed in case of capture are inspired. And Parker’s musical numbers (he’s a closet show tune fan for sure) get better and better, especially powerhouse anthem ‘America… Fuck, Yeah!” and Kim Jong Il’s melancholy ballad “I’m So Rone-ry”.

Only isn’t targeting Bruckheimer’s melodramas-on-steroids like shooting carp in a goldfish bowl? Thirty minutes of South Park would be overkill, let alone a near-two hour feature. And it’s been done (Hot Shots! anyone?), not least by the man himself. If you want an overlong parody of action movies, simply check out Bad Boys 2.

The attempts to play politics, though, are where Team America really comes unstuck. Far from subverting post 9/11 hysteria and scaremongering, Parker and Stone take refuge in their own smug apathy. They want it both ways. To claim, as Stone has, that "We don't know anything about foreign policy or anything…” and then, under the guise of being equal-opportunity offenders, to peddle the most reactionary stance possible, is pretty cowardly. The final assertion on ‘dicks, pussies and assholes’ is something Dubya might have dreamed up as a drunken fratboy. Not that he comes under fire here, unlike gleefully disemboweled puppets of Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, evidently the real global menace.

To paraphrase another Parker / Stone ditty, they miss the real satire as much as Michael Bay missed the mark when he made Pearl Harbour. And that’s a little too close to bad Bruckheimer for comfort.

* * (two stars)

'© Highbury Entertainment 2005. No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.'