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Paramount Studios presents
Team America: World Police (Uncensored and Unrated Special Collector's Edition) (2004)

"Hey terrorist. Terrorize this!"
- Lisa (Kristen Miller)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: May 16, 2005

Stars: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Daran Norris
Other Stars: Masasa, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche
Director: Trey Parker

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual content, language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:38m:12s
Release Date: May 17, 2005
UPC: 097360251944
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B+B+ A-

DVD Review

South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone have upped the ante with Team America, moving beyond the comparatively simple cut-out animation approach and their wonderfully evil humor that made them cult heroes into this, a marionette action film.

On paper that might sound like a step backwards, but Team America: World Police showcases the trademark politically incorrect Parker/Stone comedy more accessibly than South Park, and it does so within a film that is a remarkable visual marvel. Depending on your age you'll get the obvious nod to the Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds and/or Stingray from the 1960s, making this more than just a "puppet movie", but I'll wager that a good part of the legion of Parker/Stone faithful have no concept of the originals, and are wondering why the strings in this film haven't been removed digitally.

Team America, with their secret lair inside Mount Rushmore, is a group of five secret agents whose mission it is to be "the world's police", and in none-so-vague parallels to today's headlines, the team takes it upon themselves to stop terrorism around the world, no matter what the cost. The group is oblivious that most of the world hates them, though the opening destruction of Paris sequence, during a fight with some Middle Eastern terrorists—with the toppling of the Eiffel Tower and the exploding of the Louvre at the hands of Team America—only further cements a major image problem. When one of their own dies in a hail of bullets, the group's mysterious leader recruits an actor to fill the role, because they need someone to be able to successfully infiltrate a terrorist network to stop a rumored attack that is supposed to be "9/11 times 1000", or "basically all the bad parts out of the Bible."

In its simplest terms, Parker and Stone have made the equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer action movie with puppets, filled with all of the clichéd moments and character background reveals that have been done a thousand times before, but imbued with bursts of satire and parody that are spot-on brilliant. There were moments when I thought that with a few minor tweaks and live actors this could have been played "straight" and delivered as a traditional action flick, and no one would bat an eye. They mercilessly skewer North Korea's Kim Jong-Il (voiced by Parker, with more than a hint of Cartman) as the principal villain who is dispensing WMDs to terrorists all over the globe, but also hammer the loudmouth political grandstanding taken by actors like Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Janeane Garafolo, all of whom meet very graphic deaths here at the hands of Team America as a result of their work for the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.).

There are the expected onslaught of funny, off-color jokes, visual gags—including the infamous bodily-fluid-filled sex scene and a vomit bit to rival the one from The Meaning of Life—and a handful of well-produced songs, with one of the best being Kim Jong-Il's syrupy ballad about being lonely, or as he says it: "ronery." But from a technical standpoint, Team America: World Police is an impressive outing, utilizing the talents of cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix, Spider-Man 2, Army of Darkness, Darkman), the expressive puppet creations of The Chiodo Brothers (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) and the production design of Jim Dultz to create elaborately intricate environments where characters die bloody deaths (Hans Blix is eaten by a shark and Sean Penn is killed by a "panther") and sweeping camera movements really give the feel of a big-budget Hollywood action flick.

Jerry Bruckheimer should be proud.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Paramount's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is nicely done, and the image quality is detailed and sharp. It's difficult to judge puppet fleshtones, but colors are bold and bright for the duration, along with equally rock solid black levels. No trace of compression problems, grain or debris of any kind, making this an eye-catching transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The main audio track here is a big, boomy Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix that delivers the punch to dress this film up and move it into the realm of being on par with a "traditional" action film. Explosions and gunfire have the necessary deep punch to them, while dialogue retains a crisp clarity, with pronounced directional movement.

English and French 2.0 tracks are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Longest Yard, South Park, Fade To Black, Coach Carter
10 Deleted Scenes
9 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: I'll be quite honest when I say that the extras on most DVDs are filler with very little value. We hear that so-and-so's a great actor, or how the script is very personal, blah-blah-blah. Thankfully that's not the case here. The supplemental materials on Team America: World Police are all highly watchable, in part because this was such an unusual project that it was fascinating to find out how things were done.

There is a set of seven short featurettes (the longest runs just over 12 minutes), though this has the feel that it might have been one big doc originally. Each segment covers a distinct element of the production, from building the miniature sets, organizing the mass of puppeteers, designing the intricate puppets themselves and yes, blowing things up. Parker and Stone appear frequently, but it is the various production talent, including The Matrix cinematographer Bill Pope or production designer Jim Dultz, who get a well-deserved center stage. Fans of Killer Klowns from Outer Space will appreciate an insight on the brilliant work of the Chiodo Brothers in the Crafting the Puppets (08m:00s) segment, and in the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction department, the Up Close with Kim Jong-Il (05m:10s) piece isolates how bizarrely close to reality the puppet character is to the real thing.

The segments are:
Team America: An Introduction (05m:10s)
Building the World (12m:41s)
Crafting the Puppets (08m:00s)
Pulling the Strings (10m:17s)
Capturing the Action (06m:43s)
Miniature Pyrotechnics (04m:50s)
Up Close with Kim Jong-Il (05m:10s)

There is also a collection of ten assorted Deleted/Extended Scenes (06m:06s), with my favorite being a great bit from Spottswoode on Winnie The Pooh that just kills. Many of the scenes feature behind-the-scenes footage mixed in with the scene itself, and watching Trey Parker on the puppet-filled set of the play-within-the-film "Lease" is beyond weird.

Next up are a pair of short pre-production sequences—Dressing Room Test (02m:04s) and Puppet Test (04m:09s)—showing early test footage with Gary and Spottswoode, and a set of six animated storyboards.

Extras wrap with six trailers, including two for the feature. The disc is cut into 16 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Perhaps the definitive marionette action film, Team America: World Police is violent, crude, politically-incorrect and about as funny as Trey Parker and Matt Stone have ever been. Matt Damon may disagree, but this is great stuff.

Highly recommended.


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