Monday, October 18, 2004

# Posted 2:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"AMERICA, F*** YEAH!" Trey Parker and Matt Stone couldn't have chosen a better theme song for their latest film, Team America: World Police. The film critics, however, can't seem to figure out exactly what the title song means or what the movie is all about.

In the Weekly Standard, Jon Last warns his fellow critics not to pretend that this film is mostly about politics. Above all, what Parker & Stone want is to satirize the formulaic blockbusters that Hollywood churns out on a regular basis.

Last's instinct has been confirmed by Matt Stone himself, who told the WaPo that
"People are saying that [Team America is] about politics...It's a
satire of movies."
Somehow, the Post's film critics didn't get the message. Demonstrating an incomparable penchant for condescension and ignorance, Hank Stuever writes that:
Stunned by all the fun, I am almost moved to salute Parker and Stone for their nuanced and careful takedown of American jingoism and the seemingly disastrous foreign policy that Team America stands for.

Only that isn't quite how it played to an audience on Tuesday night, at one of those free-ticket radio station giveaway previews in a packed cineplex in Northwest Washington. The biggest laughs came when "Team America" assaulted any and all concepts of ethnicity, or when the joke was on gays, Michael Moore or a vast left-wing idiocy.

The movie feels like an elaborate inside joke on the very Americans laughing hardest at its easiest gags, oblivious to the sly, allegorical digs at a USA brand of bravado. What I took as a lampoon of Bushworld seemed to be received, in the seats around me, as a triumph of Bushworld. Pollsters and campaign workers, take note: "Team America" will only further confound your election-year data.
Fellow WaPo critic Desson Thomson applauds the film for it's merciless take-down of
Plain old couch-potato us and our perception of the post-9/11 world thanks to a composite prism of fear, cultural ignorance and government spin. Filmmakers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of "South Park," are holding up a mirror to our worst sides and making us laugh hysterically for the privilege.
Ironically, liberal critics such as Stuever & Thomson are actually the butt of Parker & Stone's toughest jokes. As the very-liberal-but-much-less-ignorant A.O. Scott points out in the NY Times, Parker & Stone
Expend most of their spoofy energy sending up action-movie conventions and over-the-top patriotic bluster, reserving their real satiric venom for self-righteous Hollywood liberals (with special attention to Alec Baldwin)
It seems likely, though, that their emphases and omissions reflect a particular point of view. "South Park," with its class-clown libertarianism and proudly juvenile disdain for authority, has always been hard to place ideologically, but a number of commentators have discerned a pronounced conservative streak amid the anarchy, a hypothesis that "Team America" to some extent confirms.
The victims of Team America's satire seem to have gotten the message. Sean Penn -- one of Kim Jong Il's principal collaborators in the film -- denounced Team America for
"Encourag[ing] irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death of innocent people throughout the world."
As far as I can tell, Penn's comments are sincere and not a self-deprecating parody of his left-wing views.

Even though Jon Last is right to insist that Team America is more about Hollywood than it is about Washington, I think that A.O. Scott just happens to be right when he says that the climactic speech at the end of the film represents
One of the more cogent — and, dare I say it, more nuanced — defenses of American military power that I have heard recently.
I would tell you what that cogent defense is, but I don't want to ruin the surprise for those of you who haven't seen the film. I'll just say that for those of you who enjoy both South Park and foreign policy, ten bucks is a bargain for the entertainment that Team America provides.
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