Sunday, January 04, 2015

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Team America: World Police (2004) **

R, 98 min.
Director: Trey Parker
Writers: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady
Voices: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche

So in light of the critical failure of “The Interview”, many critics have been recalling the feature length puppet movie from “South Park” creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, “Team America: World Police” as a more satisfying skewering of a North Korean leader. While there are certainly aspects of that film that are more successful than “The Interview”, I believe these recollections are more like wishful thinking for what either of the films could’ve been rather than what they actually are.

TA:WP is definitely more successful as social commentary. It’s mockery of American thinking about how great we are and how the rest of the world might actually perceive us is great satire. Even the way it pokes fun at how much value we put into the politics of celebrities is pretty funny; however, it’s depiction of particular celebrities doesn’t play fair by presenting them as imbeciles rather than criticizing the media that place them in the political spotlight.

Let’s concentrate on its depiction of Kim Jong-il, however, which is easily as offensive to the North Korean state as “The Interview”. Perhaps since it is all done with puppets instead of actual people makes it easier to take less seriously, but it’s important to note that they claim Jong-il is an alien cockroach trying to take over the planet. This is much worse than what Rogen and Franco make out of his son Kim Jong-un. Of course, that was part of Parker and Stone’s point in making the movie. If you do it with puppets, you can get away with anything. It’s their own criticism of the media and the Hollywood world from which they owe their own fame. How silly and stupid of us to be insulted by things unless they’re presented by puppets.

Puppets, however, are also the main problem I have with the movie. While it is a funny premise and I do understand their point in doing it, is it entertaining? Oh, it is for a little while.  It’s fun for about twenty minutes or so, but by the hour mark, I’m really pretty much ready to hang myself in the puppet strings. There’s only so much awkward pauses and plastic close ups one can take. The social criticism is good, but it can’t overcome the dramatic format.

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