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Team America: World Police - Preview



Preview by: Jack Foley

THE creative minds behind South Park look to have done it again, in terms of controversy, for their latest movie, Team America: World Police.

Boasting a laugh-out loud trailer, and plenty of wry social and world commentary, the movie features puppet heroes, Team America, an international police force dedicated to maintaining global stability.

When they learn of a plan by a power-hungry dictator to broker weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, the heroes embark upon an essential mission to save the world.

The ensuing mission takes them from the pyramids of Cairo to the Panama Canal and, finally, to the palace of power-mad dictator, Kim Jong II.

The film features the voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Elle Russ, and Stanley G. Sawicki and has been written and directed by Parker and Stone, with Pam Brady.

The buzz surrounding it, however, has been very strong, ever since that trailer popped up in cinemas and on the Internet.

Yet, in true South Park-style, the film has courted the attentions of the censors, with one scene, in particular, potentially threaten to undermine its box office ambitions.

The scene in question features simulated oral sex between the marionettes, and is now threatening to land the movie a dreaded NC-17 rating - which would be the box office kiss of death.

The makers have tried to modify the offending scene nine times for submission to the Motion Picture Association of America, as they are keen to secure an R rating, which would allow under-18s to see the film if they are accompanied by an adult.

And Stone, Parker and producer, Scott Rudin, are continuing to contest the rating, which they say is unfair, because the film doesn't show anything that's not been seen before in other R-rated movies.

Other violent scenes in the film include a puppet of Tim Robbins being set on fire, and a puppet of Susan Sarandon being dropped off a 20-storey building, while a puppet of Janeane Garofalo reportedly has its head blown clean off.

And yet it is the simulated sex scene which is causing the most offence - and creating the headaches for all concerned.

The film is pencilled in for a January 14, 2005, release date in the UK.

US reaction

Needless to say, the critics had plenty to say about the movie.

Beginning the round-up is USA Today, which wrote that 'Team America is not as funny as the South Park movie, and some of its juvenile humor falls flat. But when Team America works, it falls squarely into the category of guilty pleasure'.

Rolling Stone, meanwhile, described it as 'outrageously, gut-bustingly hilarious'.

Positive, too, was the Washington Post, which found it 'wickedly funny and devilishly subversive'.

While the Dallas Morning News raved: "Profane, violent, and scabrously funny, this Team has something to offend all, from pious Hollywood liberals to knee-jerk nationalists."

But the Los Angeles Times found that 'entertaining as it is at the start, Team America ends up falling back on the kind of foul language that feels more forced than exuberant'.

And the Phildaelphia Inquirer added: "45 of the funniest minutes I've spent at the movies this year. Too bad this weapon of mass diversion runs more than twice that in length."

The contrast in opinions was typical of the reviews, in general, which mostly found some reservations.

Falling firmly into the pro-crowd was Slant Magazine, for example, which hailed it as 'the funniest, filthiest, and - as surprising as it may seem - shrewdest politically-minded film of this election year'.

But dropping firmly into the negative was the Boston Phoenix, which wrote that 'Parker and Stone find themselves a little adrift and not at their best in the current turmoil, and this attempt to capture that confusion in a movie only compounds it'.

Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, wrote that it is 'ingeniously designed and executed'.

While Film Threat labelled it 'an absolutely incredible laugh-until-your-head-splits-apart comedic satire'.

And the New York Times opined that it's 'sometimes more satisfying as a straight-ahead blow 'em up than as a satire'.

The New York Post awarded it a maximum four out of four stars and described it as 'consistently hilarious '.

While the Chicago Tribune praised it for being 'a thin send-up of Jerry Bruckheimer-style action flicks'.

But the final word goes to Variety, which was a little more mixed.

It found that 'the clever visual bits and hilarious songs don't entirely compensate for the many flat or beyond-over-the-top spells'.

Roll on January...

 

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