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Team America Trounces the Left
October 11, 2004

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

The movie "Team America" may turn out to be this year's guilty little pleasure for those who are politically Right-of-center.

The flick from the "South Park" creators skewers just about every sacred cow out there. And while it's at it, it cleans the Hollywood Left's clock.

For kitchy comic effect, in its presentation the feature uses puppets on strings. Viewers go along for a ride with the Team America international police force as it goes off to conquer terrorists the world over and thwart the evil ones' use of WMD.

The team's cast includes a Saturday morning kid's show assemblage of heroes comprised of Lisa the psychologist, Sarah the psychic, all-star quarterback Joe and foul-mouthed karate expert Chris. The group is led by a sort of "Charlie's Angels"-like boss named Spottswoode, who with his news anchor voice directs operations from the secret headquarters deep inside Mount Rushmore.

In a jocular jab at our French "friends," early on in the movie the heroes rescue astonished Parisians from terrorists. Destroyed in the rescuing process are the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

The character who's pivotal in infiltrating and beating the terrorists is a puppet actor named Gary Johnston. We meet Johnston as he is delivering another one of his starring performances in an acclaimed Broadway musical about AIDS called "Lease." After observing the actor from the audience, Team America's chief Spottswoode approaches and eventually ends up convincing Johnston to join the global-saving effort.

Ultimately, Johnston must beat out in an "act-off" the "greatest actor in the world," Alec Baldwin, while the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

The movie follows the "South Park" formula of poking fun at just about everyone. Fimmakers Trey Parker and Matt Stone flood the audience with lots of not-so-subtle political satire. The war on terror and supposed American jingoism are sent up in spades. But the most memorable moments of the movie are the parts where the Left is lampooned. For those with moderate to conservative leanings, it may be worth sitting through some ribald scenes to be able to watch the Hollywood libs have their heads handed to them (sometimes literally) by Parker and Stone.

In addition to clobbering terrorists, the flick's heroes go up against the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), a group consisting of hilarious puppet versions of Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Janeane Garofalo,Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Matt Damon and others.

Michael Moore is featured, too. The "Fahrenheit 9/11" film-foister is routinely depicted with junk food in one or both of his hands. He has the distinction of being the first Hollywood Lefty to bite the celluloid dust. Others soon follow.

One Tinseltown activist whose acting and politics are uproariously ridiculed in the film is Hollywood's titular leader Alec Baldwin, who ends up being puppet chums with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

In a fitting plot line, while striving to achieve their peaceful ends, the anti-war actors end up aligning themselves with the villainous North Korean despot. Unbeknownst to F.A.G., Jong Il has a plan to destroy civilization and has distributed WMDs to terrorists everywhere. The end of the world quickly approaches and, of course, fate rests in the hands of Team America.

The movie has the potential to tick off a lot of people. Allegedly, Sean Penn's shorts are already in a twist.

According to the New York Post, Penn penned a memo to Parker and Stone. Predictably the note contained some of Penn's patented indecipherable lines like, "I do mind when anybody who doesn't have a child, doesn't have a child at war, or isn't or won't be in harm's way themselves is [saying] that 'there is no shame in not voting if you don't know what you are talking about'"

Penn also wrote, "It's all well to joke about me or whomever you choose. Not so well to encourage irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation and death of innocent people around the world. The vote matters to them. No one's ignorance, including a couple of hip cross-dressers', is an excuse."

As if it weren't enough to suggest that Parker and Stone were girlie men, Penn ended with a charming, "All the best and a sincere f*** you."

Penn added a postscript where he invited Parker and Stone to bring Dennis Miller "along for the ride" on a trip to Jordan and through the Sunni Triangle into Fallujah and Baghdad so that when they return they can "make all the fun" they want.

One thing I have to make clear-this movie is not for everyone. It is crude, sometimes offensive and has some realistic puppet violence that goes well beyond Punch and Judy.

It's not a family film. Although puppets tell the story, there are frames with objectionable language and even some nude love scenes. It's surprising how a marionette-like conveyance can be so compelling in simulating reality.

The scuttlebutt was that the film was set to get an NC-17 rating for the pulsating puppetry until it was toned down to qualify for an R. So be forewarned.

Parker and Stone may or may not be Dubya backers. But in any case, they have inadvertently lent Republicans an assist. Whether intended or not, the movie has filmgoers enthusiastically rooting for the USA. The heroic patriotic puppets are both lifelike and likable, visible strings and all.

In the end, "Team America" places our politically incorrect fantasies up on the screen. And in the process, it does something else.

It makes our aggressive pursuit of the bad guys in the world uncompromisingly cool.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2004
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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