The film features a cast composed of marionettes (except for two live cats, two nurse sharks, a cockroach, and a man dressed as a giant statue of Kim Jong-il). Team America focuses on a fictional team of political paramilitary policemen known as "Team America: World Police," who attempt to save the world from a violent terrorist plot led by Kim Jong-il. The film was primarily inspired by Thunderbirds, a popular British TV show created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson which also featured an all-marionette cast, though Stone and Parker were not fans of the show.
The film was released in the United States on October 15, 2004 and received mostly positive reviews. The film was released on DVD in the United States on May 17, 2005, available in both R-rated and Unrated versions. Since the film's release, it has made about $51 million worldwide.
|Trey Parker||Gary Johnston, Joe, Kim Jong-il, Hans Blix, Carson, Matt Damon, Drunk in Bar, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Helen Hunt, Susan Sarandon, Other voices|
|Matt Stone||Chris, George Clooney, Danny Glover, Ethan Hawke, Other voices|
|Phil Hendrie||I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E., Chechnyan Terrorist|
|Maurice LaMarche||Alec Baldwin|
|Chelsea Marguerite||French Mother|
|Jeremy Shada||Jean Francois|
|Fred Tatasciore||Samuel L. Jackson|
|Scott Land||Lead Puppeteer|
|Greg Ballora||Lead Puppeteer|
Team America: World Police exists for the sole intention of stopping terrorists from performing evil deeds. With a home base located within the structure of Mount Rushmore, the team comprises of Lisa, a young psychologist; Carson, Lisa's love interest; Sarah, an alleged psychic; Joe, a typical all-American jock who is in love with Sarah; and Chris, a technological and martial arts expert who harbors a deep yet mysterious mistrust of actors. The team is led by Spottswoode, a United States government agent, and the team's information is received by I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E., a highly-advanced supercomputer.
The story begins with the team interrupting the activities of a group of terrorists in Paris, France. During the ensuing gun-battle, the "Team" manages to lay waste to a good portion of the city, destroying the Eiffel Tower (which then collapses onto and destroys the Arc de Triomphe) and the Louvre among other structures. Following the action, Carson proposes to Lisa, but the moment is cut short when a surviving terrorist guns Carson down.
In search of a new member, Spottswoode recruits Gary Johnston, a Broadway actor with college majors in Theater and World Languages. Gary is hired as a spy, utilizing his talents to infiltrate terrorist organizations. Unbeknownst to the team, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is supplying international terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, planning a mysterious worldwide attack.
I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. is informed of a terrorist meeting in Cairo, Egypt, and Gary successfully infiltrates their group; during this time, both Lisa and Sarah become romantically attracted to him. Chris, however, hates Gary, solely because of his resentment toward actors.
Gary is sent in undercover; despite the fact that his disguise is extremely poor, he successfully gains the trust of a terrorist lieutenant. The team attempts to capture the terrorists, and although Team America successfully foils the terrorist plan, their actions again leave most of the city in ruins. The group is criticized by the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), a union of liberal Hollywood actors. The group includes Gary's favorite actor, Alec Baldwin, and his heavy criticism is very discouraging to Gary. Meanwhile, the United Nations assign Hans Blix with the task of inspecting Kim Jong-il's palace, but Hans is killed by Kim Jong-il's pet sharks. As the team relaxes following their victory, Gary expresses his guilt to Lisa, remembering a time where his acting talent caused his older brother Tommy to be killed by gorillas. As the two express their feelings and have sex (after Gary promises that he'll never die), a group of terrorists blow up the Panama Canal.
The Film Actors Guild blames Team America, believing that they (rather than the terrorists or the person who supplied them with WMDs) are responsible for the terrorists' actions. Gary, realizing his acting talents have once again resulted in tragedy, abandons the team, causing considerable conflict among the remaining members. Believing the terrorists to be operating within Derkaderkastan, the original members depart, only to be attacked and captured by terrorists and the North Koreans respectively. Meanwhile, Michael Moore infiltrates the team's base and destroys their equipment by suicide bombing the area. Kim Jong-il, upset with the terrorists' actions, expresses his frustration and despair (by singing "I'm So Ronery", A.K.A. "I'm So Lonely").
Meanwhile, a very depressed Gary becomes an alcoholic, only to be reminded of his responsibility by a drunken drifter, who compares the world's three dominant personalities to "dicks", "pussy's", and "assholes" respectively. Gary then vomits repeatedly for 56 seconds running time.
In North Korea, Kim Jong-il reveals his plan to host an elaborate peace ceremony, inviting not only the Film Actors Guild but also the world's political leaders. Alec is chosen as the ceremony's host. During the celebration, a series of bombs will be detonated throughout the world, reducing every nation to a Third World country. Gary returns to Mount Rushmore and finds the area in ruin, although Spottswoode and I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E have survived. After regaining Spottswoode's trust by performing oral sex on him, and undergoing a one-day training course (deliberately shown in a cliché montage for comic effect), Gary is sent to North Korea.
Gary proceeds to infiltrate the lair and frees the team. They are confronted by the Film Actors Guild and a violent battle ensues, leaving most of the Guild brutally slain, with Alec being the remaining member as he is the host of the ceremony. Soon after, Chris confesses to Gary that his mistrust of actors is due to the fact that when he was 19 years old, meeting the cast of Cats, he was "felt up" by Rumpus Cat and Macavity, held down by Rumpleteazer, and raped by Mr. Mistoffelees. The team then confront Kim Jong-il. Although initially unsuccessful, Gary convinces the world's leaders to unite when he recites the drifter's emotional speech, stunning Alec. Kim Jong-il then kills Alec with a submachine gun, but is defeated by Lisa by being impaled on a Pickelhaube, as worn by the German Kaiser; and he is then revealed to be a Zypod, which is an alien cockroach from another planet named Gyron. Kim Jong-il flees, departing in a miniature spaceship, but promising to return. As Gary and Lisa begin a relationship, the team reunites, preparing to combat the remainder of the world's terrorists.
Famous people depicted as puppets in the film include Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Helen Hunt, George Clooney, Liv Tyler, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofalo, Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, Ethan Hawke, Kim Jong-il, Tony Blair, Queen Elizabeth II, Peter Jennings, and Hans Blix. With the exception of Jennings, Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth (and Sheen, whose death is not shown despite being involved in the F.A.G. vs. Team America battle), all are killed in dramatic and extremely violent ways. As is usually the case with South Park, none of the voices used are those of the personalities portrayed.
Reactions from those parodied were mixed. Alec Baldwin reportedly found the project amusing and expressed interest in lending his voice to his character, while Sean Penn, who is portrayed making outlandish claims about how happy and utopian Iraq was before Team America showed up, sent Parker and Stone an angry letter inviting them to tour Iraq with him, ending with the words "fuck you." Both George Clooney and Matt Damon are said to be friends with Stone and Parker, and Clooney has stated that he would have been insulted had he not been included in the movie. While Damon was originally meant to be an intelligent person in the movie, Stone and Parker saw during production that his puppet was so malformed it "looked retarded". Inspired by an anecdote Damon tells in which he relates his fatigue with people coming up to him and shouting his name, they decided to have him only able to say his name, like Timmy in South Park.
Kim Jong-il, a noted film buff, has never commented publicly about his depiction in Team America: World Police, although shortly after its release North Korea asked the Czech Republic to ban the movie. The filmmakers acknowledged this in a DVD extra and jokingly suggested he sing "I'm So Ronery".
Michael Moore is depicted as a fat, hot-dog eating glutton who partakes in suicide bombing and is referred to as a "giant socialist weasel" by the supercomputer. Stone explained the reason for this portrayal in an MSNBC interview: We have a very specific beef with Michael Moore...I did an interview, and he didn't mischaracterize me or anything I said in Bowling for Columbine. But what he did do was put this cartoon [titled A Brief History of the United States of America, written by Moore, animated and directed by Harold Moss] right after me that made it look like we did that cartoon.
Team America made $12.1 million in its opening U.S. weekend. The film eventually grossed a total of almost $51 million, with $32.8 million in U.S. domestic receipts and $18.1 in international proceeds.
Reviews of the film were generally positive. It rated a 78% ("fresh") at Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Team America will either offend you or leave you in stitches. It'll probably do both." The Metacritic rating is 64/100 ("generally favorable reviews").
Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson was supposed to have met Trey Parker before production, but they cancelled the meeting, acknowledging he would not like the film's expletives. Anderson felt "there are good, fun parts [in the film] but the language wasn't to my liking".
National Review Online has named the film #24 in its list of 'The Best Conservative Movies'. Brian C. Anderson wrote, "the film’s utter disgust with air-headed, left-wing celebrity activism remains unmatched in popular culture." However, political and social commentator Andrew Sullivan considers the film brilliant in its skewering of both the left and right's approach on terrorism. Sullivan (a fan of Stone and Parker's other work, as well) popularized the term "South Park Republican" to describe himself and other like-minded fiscal conservatives/social libertarians. Parker himself is a registered Libertarian.
In an interview with Matt Stone following the film's release, Anwar Brett of the BBC asked the following question. "For all the targets you choose to take pot-shots at," he asked, "George W. Bush isn't one of them. How come?" Matt Stone replied, "If you want to see Bush-bashing in America you only have to walk about 10 feet to find it. Trey and I are always attracted to what other people aren't doing. Frankly that wasn't the movie we wanted to make."
In another interview, Parker and Stone further clarified the end of the film which seems to justify the role of the United States as the "World Police". Because that's the thing that we realized when we were making the movie. It was always the hardest thing. We wanted to deal with this emotion of being hated as an American. That was the thing that was intriguing to us, and having Gary (the main character) deal with that emotion. And so, him becoming ashamed to be a part of Team America and being ashamed of himself, he comes to realize that, just as he got his brother killed by gorillas -- he didn't kill his brother; he was a dick, he wasn't an asshole -- so too does America have this role in the world as a dick. Cops are dicks, you fucking hate cops, but you need 'em. Despite the success of the movie, there are no plans to make a sequel.
Marc Shaiman was originally hired to compose the original score and help Trey Parker compose the film's songs. He helped compose "Everyone Has AIDS" and "Derka Derk (Terrorist Theme)". He submitted a score, but the studio rejected it and fired Shaiman, hiring Harry Gregson-Williams as a last minute replacement (Parker had instructed Shaiman to score the film as if it were a typical action movie, which they agreed would make the movie funnier, while the studio felt the score should play up the comedy). In a curious twist, Shaiman later conducted the orchestra in the film's scoring sessions.
The film's songs include:
- "America, Fuck Yeah" Played throughout various parts of the movie, along with the "America, Fuck Yeah Bummer Remix"
- "Freedom Isn't Free": Played when Gary decides to take a "detour" with Baxter, the limo driver. The song concludes with the declaration that freedom in fact costs $1.05 ("a buck oh five"). It is a parody of nationalistic country songs like "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)" by Toby Keith, "Have You Forgotten?" by Darryl Worley and "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" by Alan Jackson.
- "Derka Derk (Terrorist Theme)", an instrumental parody of "Cantina Band" from Star Wars.
- "Only a Woman": Played during the love scene between Gary and Lisa. A parody of Diane Warren-penned powerballads from Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action movies ("I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" from Armageddon, "How Do I Live" from Con Air, "There You'll Be" from Pearl Harbor.)
- "I'm So Ronery": Sung by Kim Jong-il when he feels everyone else is incompetent.
- "Montage": Sung when Gary is training with Spotswoode. The song is a stylistic parody of "Push It to the Limit" by Paul Engemann, "Hearts on Fire" by John Cafferty (Rocky IV soundtrack) — the song even features the line 'even Rocky had a montage' — and "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler, songs famed for appearances in '80s films. A slightly different version of the song was featured in the 6th season South Park episode "Asspen."
- "North Korean Medley": Gibberish song used to distract the group of people in Kim Jong-il's large mansion before Alec Baldwin's speech. A parody of North Korean pop music by artists such as the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble and Mansudae Art Troupe, which generally extols the virtues of Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung; Kim Jong-il's name is repeated over and over.
- "The End of an Act": Played after Gary quits Team America and gets drunk. A ballad which poses the question,"Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?" It's a love song featuring the refrain "Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you". This song's lyrics and musical style are parodies of love ballads commonly written for action films that the film satirizes, such as "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith which appeared on the Armageddon soundtrack and "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin which appeared on the Top Gun soundtrack.
- "Everyone Has AIDS", sung by Gary in the Broadway musical Lease (a parody of Rent).
- The song played while the team is debriefing and partying is Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride"
- The song playing when the team walks through Kim Jong-il's palace is Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor or Humanity", which was also featured in Kill Bill.
- There is also a bonus song sung by Kim Jong-il named "You Are Worthress Arec Barwin" during the end credits of the film. The song provides some explanation of the film's ending sequence and Kim's motivation for blowing up the entire world/killing all of humanity.