Team America: World Police

Terrorists have invaded Paris and are threatening to unleash a Weapon of Mass Destruction upon the City of Lights. Until, that is, the good guys arrive and bag the bad guys – destroying the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre in the process. But, it’s just another day of saving the world for “Team America: World Police.”

Laura's Review: A-

Robin's Review: A-

South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone forgo the “colorform” characters that made them famous and enter the realm of puppetmasters with “Team America.” The film begins with a “gotcha” that must have smoked the Paramount Picture execs when their first glimpse of the film shows a cheap marionette against a chintzy drawing of Paris. As the camera pulls away, though, we are treated to a beautifully detailed and rendered Parisian setting where Team America arrives to kick terrorist butt and take names.

The influence for “TA:WP” comes from the 1964 TV series “The Thunderbirds,” the fourth of Gary Anderson’s supermarionation productions using marionettes in place of live actors. That sci-fi series, about a group of dedicated professionals tasked with saving the world from bad guys, is liberally borrowed from by Parker and Stone. The result is a fast-paced, fun, often bawdy concoction that has the Team America gang pitted against North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il and his exportation of WMDs.

Parker and Stone’s attempt at their own brand of supermarionation is an inspired laugh-fest that pays due homage to its source material but with a new millennium spin that extends the often raunchy humor of the “South Park” series and feature. Expect adult-level cussin’ and swearin’, marionette sex, biting satire, out loud laugh gags and some pretty fine production values in “TA:WP.”

P&S eschew the usual CGI that is taking the place of craftwork in animated films, lately – excepting “The Incredibles” which is both fine craftwork and wall-to-wall computer animation – and use straightforward marionette puppet work. Aside from technical improvements in the world of marionettes such as natural looking skin and subtle use of expression, “TA:WP” could be a feature version of “The Thunderbirds” of 40 years ago (sans the swearing and sex). The jerky movement of the puppets is used to good effect by the makers to elicit a laugh now and again.

I don’t want to go into the story nuts and bolts. I’ll leave that to the viewer to experience and enjoy. Expect the aforementioned raunchiness, foul language, political satire, numerous songs – like “America, F*** Yeah!” and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il’s “I’m Ronery” – puppet sex, violence, liberal and conservative lambasting and a bunch of fun.

Parker, Stone and company reportedly had to go to the MPAA rating board nine times to get the NC-17 tag changed to R because of the puppet sex. All I can say is, what did they cut out to get the R? The MPAA really has to do a reality check. After all, it is puppets, not people, we’re talking about here. Who is the board protecting?

Buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride” about sums up “Team America: World Police.” It’s a roller coaster ride that works most of the time and keeps the laughs coming. It bogs down a bit in the middle, but the liberal actor-activist bashing makes up for it.

Laura's Score: A-