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As a connoisseur of stories, I can tell you that I love when one comes together and gives me a memorable experience. In some of my favorites stories, I watch or read or play over and over just to pick apart — which is what makes it a great story. I’m that person who gets starry-eyed and gushy when I find that little detail I had missed that changes EVERYTHING I ever thought about a character. Then I feel the need to tell everyone I know about this because obviously it’s important to everyone, right?
That ended when I met my boyfriend, Rico, because he loves terrible movies.
“If you love me,” he said, “you’ll watch this with me. I don’t care if you hate it, I don’t care how much you have to drink or sass the movie to get through it, but you’re watching it!”
And so on a cold Saturday evening, we sat down with two bottles of wine, popcorn, and Team America: World Police.
If you don’t know anything about this movie, here’s the rundown:
- The entire movie is made using marionette puppets.
- It’s a satire on the secret-agent troupe and all action films ever.
- The ultimate bad guy is Kim Jong Il (who has a fabulous musical number).
- The hero is an actor-turned-secret-agent named Gary.
- The team has unrequited love and awkward romances. (Bonus points for the overly-long marionette sex scene and “trust” blow-job)
- The creators hated making this movie.
The opening is straightforward and doesn’t pull any punches. Imagine, if you will, Paris, in front of the Eiffel Tower, a serene afternoon with cafés, bakeries, and a child playing by a fountain.
Enter the Terrorists.
There’s a “weapon of mass destruction” in the suitcase! They have guns! Who will save these innocent Parisian bystanders?
A team of American secret agents who have no regard for civilian safety or protocol. The line, “Hey, terrorists! Terrorize this!” is followed by a bazooka being fired (among other cheesy lines and action sequences…). And in the end, the terrorists manage to escape. The Eiffel tower is toppled over, buildings have collapsed, and everything is smoldering or on fire. Oh, by the way, there’s also a romantic moment whereby the lovely blonde lady gets engaged to the Team America leader… only to get shot and die in her arms.
At this point, I looked Rico dead in the eyes and poured myself another glass of wine. He was biting his fist trying to not laugh too loudly, fully enjoying my anguish and the pain he’d wrought on me. We both knew I still didn’t have enough wine in me for this…
Fast forward a bit to the musical “Lease” (totally not a rip-off of “Rent”), and the part where the lead actor Gary is asked to join Team America for his country and fight off the terrorists. The limo turns into a private jet, and the not-creepy, distinguished older gentleman (kind of like M in the James Bond movies) introduces the rest of the team. There’s some macho competition, a love-at-first-sight moment, and Gary has a moment of hesitation about the whole plan of going undercover to root out the terrorists.
Understandably. This team is full of idiots. But that’s not the reason he hesitates. It’s because he doesn’t LOOK like a Middle Eastern terrorist.
Gary gets a disguise. And what I mean by disguise is actually a surgery. And what I mean by surgery is Gary looks like he’s about to get medically tortured under the guise of “skin grafting and laser valmorification.” (BTW, it seems Team America created that term “valmorification”)
Oh, it’s bad. It’s so, so bad.
It looked like they lasered off someone’s face and transplanted it onto Gary’s. Or maybe he fell into a muddy pile of poop and attached patchy bits of curly black hair.
“WHAT THE HELL,” I exclaimed. “NO, THIS IS NOT OKAY.”
“But you haven’t gotten to the good part yet!!” Rico said, laughing so hard he was red in the face.
And he was right. The good parts were yet to come.
Here’s where I diverge off the storytelling path and just highlight the good parts (because nobody has time for the full review).
The racism was admittedly hilarious and terrible at the same time. With “native dialogue” like “Derka Allah. Mohammed Jihad,” streets named “Baka-laka-daka,” serious musical numbers like “I’m So Ronery” (that’s “lonely” if you can’t pronounce L’s), and the utter destruction of historical monuments, it’s clear that the creators had one thing in mind: offend everybody. Somehow, while simultaneously crossing over several major lines, they manage to equally write everyone stupid enough to make it all okay.
Personally, I have a difficult time with romance because there are few movie couples that I feel compelled to like. The romance between Gary and Lisa (the beautiful, perfect blonde with troubled history with love) is no different. I understood the troupe, and it had to be done. I mean, what happens with you put a hot guy and a hot girl next to each other? Constantly saving each other’s lives? You can’t be an action hero without some smooching… or some naked, genital-less puppets smashing up against each other while defying the laws of physics. Getting to the marionette sex, however, was the dramatic, cringey part. Paraphrased, this is how it goes...
Lisa: “No, I can’t love you! It’s too soon!”
Gary: “But I have the feelings and you have the feelings.”
Lisa: “But I can’t! You could die! I couldn’t bear to lose you!” (Uh, we all go sometime, sweet cheeks.)
And then comes the best lie of the movie.
Gary: “I promise I will never die.”
And just like magic, Lisa’s panties fly off and they finally get to do the do...
As far as villains go, Kim Jong Il is a pretty substantial character. He’s actually the only one who makes any kind of intelligent plans or has actually clever lines. Planning to destroy the world isn’t easy with the World Police on your back, but he manages to throw off the scent for most of the film. Since he IS voiced by Trey Parker (co-creator of South Park and this movie), Kim Jong Il does sound a lot like Cartman with more of a lisp. Not knocking that, by the way, it’s perfect for the North Korean communist leader. It’s even better when he starts singing:
"I'm So Ronery"
The creators make fun of his inability to pronounce L’s — A LOT — which isn’t quite right since his own name has an L in it, but who am I to judge? It’s still funny as hell.
Eventually — as all good story arcs must — our hero, Gary, has a moment of crisis. He can’t be the hero Team America needs him to be, and he can’t be with Lisa, and he doesn’t know what to do anymore! He walks out and leaves the team with one actor down. Cue the drunk bar scene in which the old-timer imparts some life wisdom to our hero.
There are three kinds of people in this world: Dicks, Pussies, and Assholes.
This is the true gem of the movie, and comes into play later on as well. I won’t spoil the explanation if you haven’t seen it. If you haven't, watch it now before moving on. Trust me, somehow it all makes sense…
Three Kinds of People...
Wisdom quickly turns into the worst (and I do mean WORST) part of the movie. For me, this happened to be after a bottle and a half of wine and I couldn't keep myself together.
“NO!” I shouted at Rico. “I CAN’T DO THIS! TURN IT DOWN! I’M A SYMPATHETIC VOMITER!”
“NOPE!” he shouted back, eating his popcorn like it was nothing as Gary proceeded to puke about half his body weight in an alley.
It goes on for a long, long time… I won't subject you to the torture.
Now, I think this is an appropriate time to get to know Gary a little more, don’t you? We know Gary as an actor (supposedly a good actor with some foreign language skills to boot), and we know that he’s an emotional human being. I mean, his love/lust for Lisa should be clear enough, and his depression after getting the team in major trouble certainly is pulling the emotional chain. But did you know, beneath all the heroism and acting, he’s a MURDERER?
Okay, I don’t mean an active murderer. What he tells Lisa before they do the horizontal mambo is that his acting skills got his brother killed by a gorilla. I wish I was only joking. Nope, he still feels guilty all these years later because his brother died trying to save him, and that’s a big part of the reason he’s such a good actor.
Trauma = art, yo.
Additionally, Gary is a person of high morals. When we first meet him and he gets lured into the back alley with a limo waiting, Gary explicitly tells Spottswoode (the M character) that if this is one of those stupid stunts where he has to give a blowjob in order to make a name for himself in the acting world, he wasn’t going to do it. Time to eat those words, Gary, and don’t forget to swallow.
In order to get back into the team, Spottswoode demands a blowjob. I don’t know how a marionette plans on receiving such a favor as we all saw how, uh, smooth Gary’s nether region was, but if it floats your boat… And it works. Gary is brought back into the team and recieves a single day of training before going to join the hopelessly defeated World Police in North Korea.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Lisa is being held prisoner by Kim Jong Il, and she’s now dressed up in a Chinese dress with her hair done?
And the rest of the team is trying to fight their way through the castle to save the princess… Oops, sorry, must have gotten my scripts mixed up.
I wish I could hate Gary, but I don’t. He’s just some average Joe put in a difficult situation. A rock and a hard place, if you will. And he’s got a girl to save, and some friends to make sure don’t get killed by Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Hunt, Tim Robbins, and George Clooney, among other actors…
By now, I’d yelled at the TV more times than I care to count, both bottles of wine were empty, Rico was holding his sides at my pain, and I was surprisingly enjoying myself despite cringing. It may have just been the wine, but, you know, I made it through.
In the end, Kim Jong Il is defeated, Lisa is saved, and “You had me at ‘dicks fuck assholes’” is said before the big romantic kiss.
Also, Kim Jong Il is an alien from outer space. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So, I survived Team America: World Police. In all, I’m not completely scarred for life, and I’d be willing to subject others to most of this movie. Whatever else this is, it’s ultimately a very good satire on action movies, some politics, and the ‘American Way.’
There are some beautiful gem moments behind the vomit, and while I can’t say these characters were real-life compelling, the world was constructed in such a way that I totally believed this kind of shit could happen. The writing was consistent throughout, down to the smallest detail of character, and nothing felt like a waste of time… except for the massive amounts of puke. That was unnecessary.
“So, did that do anything for you?” Rico asked me, pulling me in for a hug on the couch.
“Not nearly as bad as I thought,” I slurred.
“Good. You know we’re doing this again, right?”
I bolted upright. “THERE’S ANOTHER TEAM AMERICA?!”
“No! We’re watching more bad movies after this.”
And we proceeded to negotiate the terms of our terrible movie dates.