100 Films’ 100 Favourites #89
Freedom Hangs by a Thread
Country: USA & Germany
Language: English, French, Klingon, Korean & Arabic
Runtime: 98 minutes
MPAA: R (cut)
Original Release: 15th October 2004 (USA)
UK Release: 14th January 2005
First Seen: cinema, 2005
Trey Parker (BASEketball, Despicable Me 3)
Matt Stone (BASEketball, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut)
Kristen Miller (Cherry Falls, Puff, Puff, Pass)
Masasa (Kingdom Come, Angels & Demons)
Daran Norris (Comic Book: The Movie, Veronica Mars)
Trey Parker (Orgazmo, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut)
Trey Parker (Cannibal! The Musical, The Book of Mormon)
Matt Stone (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, The Book of Mormon)
Pam Brady (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Hot Rod)
Global paramilitary protectors Team America: World Police must battle both the machinations of terrorists and the criticism of Hollywood actors.
Gary Johnston is just a Broadway actor, until he’s recruited into counter-terrorism force Team America: World Police to use his acting skills to save the world. The rest of the team include its boss, Spottswoode; Lisa, a psychologist; Sarah, who thinks she’s psychic; Joe, an all-American jock; and Chris, a martial artist with a hatred of actors — like Gary! There’s also their supercomputer, I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E., which stands for… um…
Kim Jong-il, the lonely leader of North Korea, and his threats to global security. His positions is strengthened by those liberal FAGs — that’d be the Film Actors Guild.
Best Supporting Character
“We’re dicks! We’re reckless, arrogant, stupid dicks. And the Film Actors Guild are pussies. And Kim Jong-il is an asshole. Pussies don’t like dicks, because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes — assholes who just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way, but the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is that sometimes they fuck too much, or fuck when it isn’t appropriate — and it takes a pussy to show ’em that. But sometimes pussies get so full of shit that they become assholes themselves, because pussies are only an inch-and-a-half away from assholes. I don’t know much in this crazy, crazy world, but I do know that if you don’t let us fuck this asshole, we are going to have our dicks and our pussies all covered in shit.” — Gary
Quote Most Likely To Be Used in Everyday Conversation
“Matt Damon.” — Matt Damon
Puppets having sex. Sex, by puppets. Sexing puppets. Puppet sex.
The titular refrain (“America! Fuck yeah!”) is perhaps the most memorable, though it has strong competition from Kim Jong-il’s I’m So Ronery, but my favourite song has always been the in-jokey, film-fan-y Montage. I certainly laughed far louder than anyone else in the cinema, anyway.
Puppets! Considering the Gerry Anderson shows they’re emulating took multiple iterations and years of work to really perfect, Team America does a remarkable job out of the gate — and isn’t adverse to some puppet-based humour either, naturally.
Originally the Matt Damon character had a proper speaking part, because he’s a pretty intelligent guy really and Parker and Stone knew that. But then the puppet came out looking a bit, shall we say, ‘special’. With no time to remake it, they decided to have the character live up to how he looked: only capable of saying his own name. So it’s less a grand piece of satire on the self-involvement of Hollywood lefties, more an in-joke.
1 Empire Award (Comedy)
1 MTV Movie Awards nomination (Action Sequence for “the desert terrorist assault”)
What the Critics Said
“it’s hard not to guffaw with glee at the gross libelling and on-screen dismemberment of an array of ‘aware’ Hollywood stars (albeit in puppet form) and in which George W Bush’s war on terror is rendered in risible sub-‘Supermarionation’ form. The whole thing plays like Thunderbirds Goes to Hell and will doubtless offend all those numskulls who complained about the BBC’s transmission of Jerry Springer: The Opera. For that alone, it gets my vote.” — Mark Kermode, New Statesman
What the Public Say
“The idea of the puppets in the first place is very clever, because when you make everything a puppet, everything becomes funnier. I think that the puppets themselves work so well because the creators knew their strengths and weaknesses. The puppets they use are pretty detailed and can do a lot of different kinds of movements. The team use these functions of the puppets for simpler actions (moving limbs and heads and so on) and make it look realistic. But how do you make a fistfight between two puppets look realistic? You don’t, just make some very basic and crude movements and the joke basically tells itself.” — Felix, FelixMovieThoughts
The guys behind South Park spoof Michael Bay-style action movies — and by extension right-wing America’s view of its place in the world — through the medium of Thunderbirds-style puppets, which just heightens the ridiculousness. It’s a neat mix of clever satire and baser laughs, bolstered by surprisingly listenable musical numbers. It’s not always clever, and it’s never big (they’re puppets!), but it is funny.
#90 will be… following yonder star.