Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Blu-ray Review: Team America: World Police (2004)

With all of the controversy surrounding Sony Pictures' The Interview, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as they essentially mock North Korea and their leader Kim Jong-Un. When the film was initially pulled from the US, Paramount had the idea of airing Team America: World Police in it's place. Since Team America also has a North Korean despot at the centre of the film, noise was made about that too and Paramount cancelled those plans. So, having it on Blu-ray, I thought now would be a good time to take a look and see how it shapes up.

Team America: World Police comes from the minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are best known as the creators of South Park. The style of Team America is very much the same crude humour of South Park but with marionette puppets, who are themselves in the style of old shows such as Thunderbirds. Except it's all done terribly, on purpose.

The Blu-ray release made it's way to the UK in 2013 and I am surprised that it has never been released on Blu-ray in North America. Which is ironic if you think about it. Luckily for those across the Atlantic who want the Blu-ray, it is region free so anyone can get it, at a premium though I would think.

The Blu-ray release is a bare-bones release, more so than most because it lacks any form of special features at all, which is very disappointing. It's very much a basic re-release that hasn't had any extra attention to it apart from the HD transfer of the movie as well as various dubbing options that it comes with, including French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. The picture quality is as expected in HD. Nothing spectacular but not poor.

As for the movie itself, well it certainly has a point to make. Team America: World Police is a team of highly trained people who fight terrorists the world over. Of course, coming from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it isn't that simple. Team America is an organisation that claims to be fighting for freedom but often makes things worse with their brash, overzealous attitude and their total disregard for anything that isn't killing terrorists, even if it means blowing up famous landmarks.

It doesn't take a genius to work out what Team America: World Police represents. The clue is in the title. Basically, Team America is Parker and Stone saying that America causes a lot of the world's problems and sees itself as this great saviour when it's not. They say it by using a comedy with puppets. As you do.

Well, the film. It's hard to explain without spoiling it. Well at the beginning terrorists are planting WMDs in Paris (Je Suis Charlie), and Team America turns up in, despite there only being five of them, a jet, a helicopter (which has supposedly kept up), and a cargo plane. That's a comment about America, pollution and wastefulness you would think.

In Team America, there are five members: two (and one former) of which are voiced by Trey Parker, who is very much multi-talented. These are all of the characters that he voices:

  1. Gary Johnston
  2. Carson
  3. Joe Smith
  4. Kim Jong-il
  5. Hans Blix
  6. Matt Damon
  7. Tim Robbins
  8. Sean Penn
  9. Michael Moore
  10. Helen Hunt
  11. Susan Sarandon
  12. Drunk in Bar
That's not including the minor character voices too.

The movie's protagonist is Gary Johnston who is a theatre actor who gets approached by Spottswoode (voiced by Daran Norris) to join the team after Carson died in Paris (that's a spoiler but it's necessary to spoil to say what the film is about). Anyway, after convincing him that he isn't going to put his dick in Gary's mouth, Spottswoode takes Gary to Team America HQ which is inside Mount Rushmore, because why not. There he meets the rest of the team that makes up Team America: Joe Smith, Chris (voiced by Matt Stone), Sarah Wong (voiced by Masasa), and Lisa Jones (voiced by Kristen Miller) and despite their efforts, leaves, to only then return and join the team. Team America also has a super computer called I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E (voiced by Phil Hendrie) who doesn't very intelligent at all.

Anyway, without spoiling too much, it ends up where the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G for short, yeah...) based on the Screen Actors Guild, a real thing, and Kim Jong-il team up to hold a peace conference in North Korea. The F.A.G is led by Alec Baldwin, to whom I get the impression Parker and Stone don't like. This comes from the fact that in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, the Baldwin's house gets bombed. Members of the F.A.G include Samuel L. Jackson (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), Tim Robbins, George Clooney, (voiced by Matt Stone), Helen Hunt, Liv Tyler and Matt Damon (whose entire dialogue consists of Matt and Damon). The F.A.G is in the film because of the fact that Hollywood actors are often seen in political climates when they perhaps shouldn't be. That's all I can really say about the story without spoiling so you can guess the rest, or just watch the film.

Another thing that needs to be pointed out is how good the soundtrack. Clearly inspired by the action movies of the 1980s, with songs like the theme song which evokes those upbeat, can take on anyone type of song. It also has a message about how America sees itself throughout. The soundtrack is full of songs referencing others from movies and also take shots at certain things, such as one song called The End of an Act questioning why Michael Bay gets to keep on making movies and why Ben Affleck is an actor. Both very good points it has to be said. The soundtrack was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and if you know his work, it shows.

Is Team America: World Police a good film, or at least watch-able on Blu-ray? The lack of any special features whatsoever is disappointing but I personally like it, I liked it when I first saw it in around 2004 or 2005. It received a mixed reception but seems to have become a cult classic, which I'm sure Trey Parker and Matt Stone feel better about now than at the time of release, at it had numerous production issues throughout. Team America is a movie for those who like things that aren't too serious and incredibly over the top. One scene in particular encapsulates this more than any other. I'm not going to say which one but if you've scene the movie then you'll know the one. Yes, that one.

America, fuck yeah!