A heavily ‘caveated’ thumbs up

teamamericaExcept perhaps for The Passion of the Christ, I can’t think of a film I’ve seen that is more deserving of its “R” rating than Team America: World Police which I saw Friday night while the rest of the family is out of town.

There is plenty in this movie to offend everyone and I strongly encourage those who are offended by, well, everything you can imagine that’s offensive (and some creatively offensive stuff you haven’t imagined yet), to skip it. However, for those who process the world as I do — a little off-key and out-of-focus, then the absurdity of the film results in one of the most ironic celebrations of uniquely American freedom of expression I’ve ever witnessed. (I’ll get back that in a minute.)

Update (11 years later): Watch the movie thanks to YouTube:

Again, before you interpret what I’m saying as encouragement for you to see the film, let me repeat once more that it is filled with sophomoric goof-ball stupidity (probably only enjoyed by Three Stooges and South Park fans) and content guaranteed to offend you and anyone else who is straight or gay or of any ethnic background or gender. It wallows in vulgarity, crudeness and violence and sex (involving puppets).

You will likely hate it and wonder why I had anything positive to say about it. But I do, and not because it is rumored to be “anti-Michael-Moore.” Indeed, there’s been lots of pre-release build-up that right-wingers will love the movie because it mocks Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin and the whole pretentious Hollywood leftist cartel.

And while the movie does those things (to put it mildly), there is no way the right-wingers I know will love a film skewering American foreign policy as one characterized by a doctrine of blow-up first, ask questions later (nor, for that matter, will they be receptive to a running joke about multiples of 911). This is not a film that will please the anti-Michael-Moore crowd despite the graphicallly pleasant way the marionette version of Moore, a suicide bomber, is blown to smithereens (and this is one of the less-puppet-violent scenes in the film).

At its core, the movie is less a political polemic than it is a chomping satire of Hollywood action films — of boilerplate plot lines, cinematic devices, big-time genre directors, musical scores and, in hilarious fashion — the use of montages to communicate in a couple of minutes how the central character is transformed from inexperienced into expert.

There are so many baseball-bat-to-the-head slams at Hollywood cliches, it is impossible to keep up with them. A wonderful example of the depth of the filmakers’ Shermanesque approach to torching Hollywood is a song that compares how much the singer loves someone to how bad the film Pearl Harbor was. And, if you sit through the entire ending credits, you’ll be treated to a short ditty called, “You’re Useless, Alec Baldwin.”

Members of the Film Actors Guild (FAGs) are portrayed as unwitting puppets (metaphorically and literally) of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il who is one of the funniest characters in the movie.

The Nashville crowd I saw the movie with were especially moved (to tears of laughter) by the parody of a Toby Keith pro-America, kick the rest of the world in the butt, anthem, the title of which is, well, Cheneyesque.

Again, while I encourage you to skip seeing it if you’re the least put-off by, say, the longest vomit-scene in movie history, this film is a celebration of a brand of artistic freedom that is uniquely American and, frankly, hard to understand by others. I say this because it is a big-studio, big-time production that is clearly intended to be hugely profitable by pandering to those who like to drink crudeness at a firehose, where profit motivations far outweigh the chances that all involved with the movie will likely have a death-sentence issued on them by some fundamentalist cleric somewhere.

As this film is viewed around the world, the international audiences will both laugh “at” the stereotypically American xenophobe, portrayed as trigger-happy cowboys who will blow up the Louvre in order to kill four terrorists. Still those international viewers will be unconsciously (or perhaps knowlingly) confronted by the extraordinary fountain of creative freedom that allows such work to be produced and released in the U.S.

(However, come to think of it, it could be produced other places, which reminds me of a joke Ronald Reagan used to love to tell [second paragraph from bottom].)

  • Tim Germer

    Ohhh, now I’ve got to see it! Thanks for the review!

  • Hudge

    Rex if you enjoyed this as you say, then I urge you to run to your local bookmonger and find the section on Christopher Moore <http://www.chrismoore.com>. Start with, oh, Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. His newest novel, The Stupidest Angel, a heartwarming tale of Christmas terror, just fell into my hands, but having read the first chapter online, i can recommend it, too. It might help to read the Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove first, for background on the setting of Angel, but not really necessary. Moore has a reading list you’d probably like as well. He’s also an acquaintance of Michael Perry, <www.sneezingcow.com> who sent me the copy of Angel. i could go on, but hey, it’s your blog.

  • rex

    Speaking of Michael Perry, he is the author who is, perhaps, responsible for the longest article on vomit (in Men’s Health) that has ever appeared in a popular consumer magazine, so it’s only appropriate his name show up in a thread about this movie.

  • lewis pennock

    i saw the film friday as well (rex, where you at the 7:45 green hills showing?) and we all agreed that they could have done so much more with it. the south park style humor got a little old, even though that’s what i expected. perhaps the daily show writers could have consulted on it to bring it up a notch, or perhaps they just weren’t shooting that high. probably the latter. oh, speaking of the daily show, if any of you missed jon stewart on crossfire, which i just happened to catch live and have permanently saved on my TiVo, go download and watch the segment immediately. wonkette has links to several download sites.

  • rex

    Yes, Lewis. We saw the movie at the same time and place. I don’t know how you missed me as I was right there sitting by myself wearing a baseball cap in the middle of a bunch of people. And, yes. The Jon Stewart on Crossfire is a classic. He was like one of those kung fu guys who can rip out an opponent’s heart and show it to him before he dies.

  • Hudge

    Yeah, Lewis, Rex was the guy in the Titans apparel cheering his head off.
    Speaking of cheering, I have got to watch Job Stewart some day and find out what all the cheering is about for him. What little I have seen of him hasn’t yet clued me in. But then. I never got )nor watched) Seinfeld or Frazier either.