America! Fuck Yeah! Comin' again to save the motherfuckin' day, yeah! America! Fuck Yeah! Freedom is the only way, yeah!
The guys who madeSouth Park use (cheap) marionettes to lampoon U.S. foreign policy and the war on terror, the action films of Michael Bay, liberal Hollywood actors, and everyone else for that matter.Gary Johnston is a skilled actor who joins Team America, a group of five counterterrorists whose preferred method involves Stuff Blowing Up. The leader, Spottswoode, wants him to go undercover to discover the next terrorist plot, dubbed "9/11 times a thousand" (911,000).Unbeknownst to our heroes, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il is secretly funding and arming the terrorists. He is also encouraging the Film Actors Guild (led by Alec Baldwin) to shut down Team America and its ultra violent antics.Notable for using Thunderbirds-style marionettes and miniatures for visuals. The reduced scale allowed different shots and large scenes on the cheap. Its cartoonish qualities also let it turn up the sex and violence because, hey, they're puppets!The script for this film was actually Plan B from Trey Parker and Matt Stone in making a marionette movie - their first idea was filming Armageddonword-for-word with the puppets. The idea was that the script was silly enough, and the movie would only improve if it was being filmed with Super Marionation. Them not being able to secure the rights of the The Day After Tomorrow script, led to them making a straighter parody of (and homage to) Thunderbirds.
This film provides examples of:
Affectionate Parody: Parker and Stone got the idea when they saw Thunderbirds in rerun for the first time, and learned that the Thunderbirds movie would not be using puppets.
An Aesop: The whole point of the movie is to contrast what the film presents as pussies, dicks, and assholes. Team America is violent, stupid and dangerous, but the people who protest their actions in favor of diplomacy and peace are helpless without them before the likes of Kim Jong Il, who are violent and just cannot be reasoned with. Word of God compares it to cops being hated for making life difficult for normal people, but they are needed to keep the real criminals in line.
Spottswoode: Remember, there's no "I" in "Team America".
I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E.: Yes, there is!
Anti-Hero: Team America is Type IV, causing large amounts of property damage on their missions and using lethal force on everyone in their way. Gary even admits that "pussies" need to call them out whenever they go too far.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Parodied mercilessly. The "Islamic" terrorists' vocabulary consists of: durka, durk, ha, sherpa, Allah, Muhammad, and jihad. Everyone who doesn't speak American has their vocabulary similarly chopped.
The French are pretty much only saying "frere jacque" over and over again, even when running away in fear.
The Panamanian people just say "no me gusta" while dying.
Bad-Guy Bar: The terrorist hangout in Cairo, Egypt, complete with the Cantina theme from Star Wars played backwards. A bar patron wears a gas mask that makes him resemble a character in the Cantina scene.
Big "NO!": Lisa's reaction to Carson's death in the beginning.
Black and Gray Morality: Lampshaded in the "dicks, pussies and assholes" speech. Team America, the "dicks" fight for good causes, protecting the innocents and serving justice to the evil, but can go too far. The "pussies", F.A.G. and the rest of the world, can tell when the "dicks" are out of line, but can become evil if they are too self-righteous. The "assholes"- Kim Jong Il and terrorists, are simply evil.
British Teeth: Seen on the "BW" (a parody of BBC) newsreader in a deleted scene.
Bullet Time: Parodied, it's not the cameras that revolve around the characters, it's the characters that stop in the air and turn around with the room standing still.
But Not Too Gay: When Gary performs fellatio on Spottswoode to show his loyalty, the homosexual action is essentially off-camera, with only Spottswoode's face visible; Spottswoode is fully dressed and his only reaction to the BJ is to blink once or twice; there are no sound effects suggestive of oral sex. In contrast, the heterosexual action between Gary and Lisa is stark ravin' nude, loud, physically acrobatic, and crosses into kinky (even more so in the DVD version) — and all of this is accompanied by a power ballad with lyrics that include: Only a woman / Is allowed to touch me there / All I ask is that you're a woman
(as her aircraft is crashing into the sea) "I sense that I'm going down!"
Whenever it's not Captain Obvious, it's completely wrong. She senses that Gary's trapped inside the Cairo tavern, when he and the terrorists have escaped in a jeep.
Censor Decoy: The explicit sex scene was thrown in entirely to distract the MPAA from the movie's other offensive elements. It worked perfectly. The film's original rating with the sex scene was NC-17. The theatrical cut only alters this scene to get the R.
When paired with the extremely tame and brief Gary/Spottswoode oral sex scene, the over-the-top Gary/Lisa sex scene may be interpreted as a satiric protest against the But Not Too Gay double standard.
Chekhov's Gun: Gary's infamous "dicks, pussies and assholes" speech was first given to him by some random drunk after he quit the team.
Flat "What.": Gary's reaction when Spotswoode tells him that he'll agree to trust him and let him back on the team, if Gary performs oral sex on him.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: Lots of little details are hidden in the film's vehicles and locations; the streets in France are made out of miniature croissants, Carson carries a fingernail clipper on his harness, a woman in Egypt carries goldfish in a basket on her head, and the Korean fighter jets have sailing-ship steering wheels and broken off gas pump handles in them, to name a few.
Freudian Excuse: Chris doesn't trust Gary (or actors in general) because when he was a teen he was gang-raped by the cast of Cats.
Fun with Acronyms: Alec Baldwin loves to remind his fellow Film Actor Guild members they are FAGs. Team America's computer is named I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. so they can remark how they have no I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. when the power goes out. Also, when Spottswoode scolds the computer, saying, "That was bad, I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E! Very bad I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E!" it references the common belief that America got into the war in Iraq based on bad intelligence reports.
Hypocritical Humor: A deleted scene has Spottswoode, lamenting that the disaster in Panama was a result of his failure to suspect the non-Middle Eastern Kim Jong-Il in the terrorist plot, promising he'll "never be racist again"... immediately after calling Kim a "goddamn gook".
Tim Robbins mocking Team America for "coming so close to stopping peace"... while pointing two AK-47s in their faces.
If We Get Through This: As a show of apologizing for being a Jerk Ass towards Gary, Chris offers to buy him a beer after they stop Kim Jong Il's plans.
Informed Ability: Lisa is declared to be the team's psychologist. Apart from a single line of psychobabble, she largely sticks to shooting guns.
Irony: The lyrics to America Fuck Yeah in their entirety. If you listen to them casually, they sound very patriotic, but if you actually read the lyrics, they are brutally ripping on every Eagleland cliche in existence and in truth are actually pretty insulting.
Insult Backfire: Of course, even the people who do recognize the satire in this song have taken on the phrase as an exclamation of patriotism.
Insult Misfire: ...to say nothing of the people who just think the song is funny regardless of whether or not they get the irony or not.
London England Syndrome: Whenever they change location, a subtitle points out its distance to America. "Paris: 2,258 miles from America." (It's actually the distance to New York).
And then Panama is located "south from the real America".
Love Dodecahedron: Carson and Lisa loved each other, but Carson got killed and tells Lisa to find someone who will love her as much as he did. Gary and Lisa falls for each other, but Sarah falls for Gary and Joe falls for Sarah. And then Gary has to perform oral sex on Spotswoode to get back onto the team.
That wasn't about sex, it was about trust!
Lyrical Dissonance: Played with "The End of an Act". The melody and scene it accompanies is very sad and 15% of it's lyrics are appropriately about Gary missing Lisa. The thing is that the other 85% of the lyrics are about ripping apartPearl Harbor.
Monster Suit: Kim Jong-Il is actually an alien cockroach. Once his plans are ruined, the insect crawls out of Kim Jong-Il's mouth and flies away in a miniature shuttle. A credits-only song gives more background story to this: apparently his planet is also inhabited by alien bees, who the cockroaches are in war with and Kim was sent to Earth to nuke it so that the cockroaches could move there.
Monumental Damage: The Eiffel Tower falls over and smashes the Arc de Triomphe. Later, the team blows up one of the Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings tomb, and the Sphinx. Still later, Michael Moore blows up Mount Rushmore.
Mook-Face Turn: Subverted with Susan Sarandon, who claims to have been tied up when she refused to go along with the plan.
More Dakka: Almost every gun fired anywhere in the movie is a fully automatic, with only few exceptions.
As a rather odd case, a terrorist in the Cairo Bad-Guy Bar is shown firing an SKS carbine fully-automatic.
My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: The American anti terrorism squad is being portrayed as causing more damage to other countries than actually helping them. An important story arc too, as Gary is shocked by their actions and refuses to help his country any longer.
Parody: The play "LEASE" with its theme song "Everyone has AIDS" is a parody of Rent.
Patriotic Fervor: Team America's vehicles are covered in red, white, and blue, their base is in Mount Rushmore, and their logo depicts an eagle posed against the backdrop of an American flag with a globe clenched in its beak.
Kim Jong Il: "You see, no Prince Charming rode in on a white stallion to save the day. This is the real world. I'm afraid your world is over!...in five minutes.
The filmmakers intentionally designed non-American locations to look like what Americans might assume those places to look like. All of France's monuments are within walking distance of each other, and citizens of Cairo all dress like they're in Aladdin.
Rousing Speech: Gary's Big Speech that changes the mind of everyone in the stadium.
Gary: 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 them that. But sometimes, pussies get so full of shit that they become assholes themselves ... because pussies are only an inch and half away from assholes. I don't know much about this crazy, crazy world, but I do know that if you don't let us fuck this asshole, we're going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit!
Lisa: You had me at "dicks fuck assholes".
Sequel Hook: An obvious one, however, Stone and Parker don't want to touch marionettes anymore, and the movie, while not a bust, fared quite poorly.
Shout-Out. Tons of them, such as Gary starring in a Broadway production of Lease which concludes with a song about how "Everyone has AIDS".
Stuff Blowing Up: They usually blow up most of the city they're trying to save in the process.
Taken Up to Eleven in the opening credits, which themselves explode... followed by the entire planet exploding.
Stylistic Suck: Most of the movie, but particularly the opening puppet show. This was done to freak out the financers (the story goes that one of them yelled "My god, they fucked us!")... but then the camera pans back to show the crude puppet and backdrop are part of a rather more sophisticated puppet's performance.
Some of the DVD extras reveal that the puppeteers were actually capable of even more complex and realistic puppetry than is seen in the movie, though at times it is deliberately done overly simply, partly because it was simply funnier, and partly because overly realistic puppets slam deep into the Uncanny Valley, which they wanted to avoid.
For some reason, Stone and Parker are extremely cruel to Susan Sarandon in particular.
And (say it with me now) Matt. Damon.
According to the IMDB trivia page for this film, they wanted to portray Damon as intelligent and articulate, but chose not to do so because his puppet "looked retarded". Damon himself apparently thought it was hilarious, and wished that they'd asked him to do the voice work.
Sean Penn was infamously so angry with his portrayal in the movie that he wrote an "angry letter" to Stone and Parker over it, signing it with "All the best, and a sincere fuck you".
Tim Robbins said in an interview that he wanted to frame the burnt, injured puppet of himself and put on his wall.
Parker and Stone had a particular beef with Michael Moore and took it out on his character. Specifically, Moore made it seem like they'd done an animation for one of his documentaries (Bowling for Columbine) that was in favor of his position. They didn't, and they weren't. In fact, for the scene where Moore explodes himself in a suicide attack, they stuffed his puppet with ham.
The movie Pearl Harbor also gets it pretty hard (there's a whole song pretty much detailing all the ways it - and Ben Affleck - sucked).
Besides his credits-only song detailing all the ways in which Alec Baldwin is worthless, Kim Jong-Il gets in a Stealth Insult when explaining the timing of his plan to Lisa - "When you see Alec Baldwin, you'll see the true ugliness of human nature."
Television Geography: Done on purpose. Any country that isn't America has all of its landmarks within blast radius.
To the degree that the Eiffel Tower can fall over and land upon the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
10-Minute Retirement: Gary after the retaliatory attack on the Panama Canal, which he blames himself for.
The Ending Changes Everything: After the revelation that Kim is an alien cockroach, the movie goes from being about a team of dicks screwing everything up to stop an asshole, to being a movie about a team of dicks who are unknowingly fighting to save the earth from an alien invasion.
It seems that Parker and Stone are a bit more "ha ha only serious" than they originally let on; you can see the same speech given by a conservative blogger, Bill Whittle. He calls it TRIBES, and the three groups are "sheepdogs (protect sheep, attack wolves)", "sheep (protected by sheepdogs, attacked by wolves)" and "wolves (attack everyone)", respectively, but it's the same basic idea.
This is also a standard US response to accusations of imperialism: Namely, that no matter how bad some might consider the American government, there's always someone worse; and that while said government's behavior is a long way from perfect, it does allow the rest of the world to continue on in relative normalcy, which would be considered uncertain if another country gained preeminence.
Unintentional Period Piece: All of the events that the film mocks were very recent when it was released, and though it's only been 9 years old, it's already so 2004 it hurts. One can only imagine what it'll seem like 20 years from now.
What the Hell, Hero?: Most of the team's reaction to Gary coming back after his 10-Minute Retirement. The F.A.G. also gets in on this from time to time, and Gary points out that they're sometimes right.
Wimp Fight: Fight scenes consist of two marionettes flailing arms and limbs for about ten seconds before one of them abruptly stops moving and the other declares victory.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Kim Jong Il. He's plotting the destruction of society as we know it, but deep down, he's just "a rittre ronery" (read: little lonely).