In his review, Roger Ebert likened Team America writers and directors Matt Stone and Trey Parker to a “cocky teenager who’s had a couple of drinks before the party,” and that they don’t care who they offend, just as long as they are “as offensive as possible.” Roger Ebert then concluded his review by stating that, “[a]t a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides — indeed, at anyone who takes the current world situation seriously.” He then gave the movie one star and, a few years later, gave the Zookeeper three stars. While his reaction is understandable it is entirely based in emotion; he failed to realize both what the movie was going for and how it succeeded. Based on his reasoning he should have given Dr. Strangelove a thumbs-down as well for that movie was irreverent during a time of global crisis (and a much bigger and realer crisis than the one we’re going through.) He must of also either missed the speech in the end or did not register its deeper meaning. If he had understood the ending then he would of known that Stone and Parker are presenting a moderate view on the war against terrorism, where we should try to combat terrorist threats but still remain reasonable about it. And despite its irreverent tone perhaps the greatest sin Ebert committed is not realizing just how fucking hilarious this movie is. Even if one doesn’t get the political message, or disagree with it, it would be difficult to not laugh at the numerous dick/fart-jokes or Kim Jung-Il’s heartwarming musical number.
Another thing Ebert got wrong is that this is one of those movies that the world needed in the wake of the Iraq War in order to put things in perspective. In the movie Team America, a counter-terrorist group whose base of operations is within Mount Rushmore, battle against terrorists across the globe, but they end up causing more destruction than the terrorists could have wrought on their own. Later on it becomes more clear is that Stone and Parker aren’t against the idea of combating terrorists, but rather they’re criticizing America’s ham-fisted and ignorant approach. See, the movie does have a meaning and isn’t trying to offend people for the sake of it–the movie is preaching thoughtful intervention.
So yeah, unlike Roger Ebert, I found this movie to be not only a great comedy, but a great and intelligent satire on action films, Hollywood liberals, UN impotence and America’s overzealous patriotism. Another thing that should be noted is how well the movie balances the two: low-brow comedy and intelligent satire. As mentioned before, someone could very easily not get the message or the context of the “dicks, pussies and assholes” speech at the end, but can still laugh at the absurdity of it and the great delivery of foul language. But even if one isn’t amused by the constant utterances of “shit” and “fuck” they can still appreciate how they are employed to deliver an interesting message about politics.
Another cool thing about the movie is the use of marionettes. The facial movements of the marionettes are done rather well and the physical movements of the puppets are used to great comedic effect (there are a number of fight scenes, for example as well as a couple of scenes featuring a puppet version of Michael Moore) The sets are also pretty good, especially Kin Jung-Il’s palace and Team America’s base.
Despite being ten years old I would also argue that this movie has aged rather well with its original use of puppets and well-executed jokes, even if some things seem out-of-date like the idea that Alec Baldwin would lead actors on a crusade for Political Correctness against Team America or the fact that Kim Jung-Il is the villain–but even then Kim Jung-Il provides some of the movie’s best moments and Alec Baldwin is a great symbol of Hollywood’s well-intended, but misguided, liberalism. I was going to go more in-depth with this review, but I think you get the picture. Seek this movie out for yourself if you haven’t already. But if you prefer your humor to be more on the “safe” side, check out a certain Kevin James vehicle instead.