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:
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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...