Calling films classic not long after they’ve been released might be a little premature or even a clichéd attempt at making them seem even better than they were – but now that a decade has gone by since the release of one of the finest satirical films of the 21st century, I think it’s time we consider Team America: World Police as the classic that it is.
For those that aren’t aware, Team America follows the life of actor Gary, who is drafted because of his superior acting skills into a secretive vigilante police organisation known as Team America. They have been under fire for being too bold in their police actions, destroying much of Paris and losing one of their team members in attempt to foil a terrorist attack, but now they face their biggest challenge yet in trying to thwart a massive worldwide attack from terrorist WMDs. Things take a twist as it transpires that North Korean dictator Kim-Jong Il is behind the attacks, and the team must stop his evil plan from coming to fruition before it’s too late. It may sound like standard action fare, and it is, but with a wild splash of comedy and satire mixed in.
What sets Team America apart is, well, that there is so much that it does differently. Every opportunity it has to make a joke it will fit one in and do it well. The entire film was made with puppets and voice actors in a Thunderbirds-esque sort of way, which is remarkable considering the size and scope of the film and leads to some amazingly funny situations at times. There’s plenty of original songs in the film that take pot-shots at the brash American culture as well as the generic action film sequences that appear almost always (“You gotta have a montage”). But while doing all these things differently, it still indulges in the vices that make films so enjoyable. There’s personal conflict, love interests and a happy (if a little weird) ending. It’s not just a side-splittingly funny hour and a half, it’s also a pretty decent film as well.
Team America is a grossly exaggerated critique of the US’ overly-patriotic culture and foreign affairs involvement in the aftermath of 9/11. It comes with brazen Hummers draped in stars and stripes and of course the infamous battle cry of “America, fuck yeah!”. Coming so soon after the invasion of Iraq, the film must have been extremely close to the bone for many cinemagoers at the time – but now it looks like a great review of what really happened, America going to war over something that they had little information about. There’s so many little digs at the entire issue that there’s still things that pop out at you for the first time when you re-watch the film, which is testament to how well written it is.
Stars of Hollywood are also pretty heavily targeted by the film, with the writing and producing duo of South Park fame – Trey Parker and Matt Stone – taking aim at celebrity political involvement with their film as well. Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Janeane Garofolo and the slightly melted Matt Damon are all among the stars name-checked in Team America and whose marionette characters end up playing a major role in the plot. This adds a sense of “star power” even though they are voiced by only a few people and certainly not by the stars themselves.
Team America is hands-down one of my favourite comedies of all time. It’s hilarious the whole way through with a great range of jokes from ripping of UN weapons inspector Hans Blix to simply making fun of top Hollywood actors. The songs are engrained in my mind and there are many subtle little jokes from the film I use almost on an everyday basis. There’s nothing that has come out since that has been such a good comedy on so many levels.
When you think of classic comedies, it’s the Airplanes!, Blazing Saddles etc. what makes them so good is that they have their own unique style that other films hadn’t before and haven’t since matched. And that’s why Team America is one too.