Team America: World Police
Team America: World Police is a 2004 American comedy film directed by Trey Parker and written by Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady, all of whom are also known for the popular animated television series South Park. Starring Parker, Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa Moyo, Daran Norris, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche, Chelsea Marguerite, Jeremy Shada and Fred Tatasciore, the film is a satire of big-budget action films and their associated clichés and stereotypes, with particular humorous emphasis on the global implications of the politics of the United States. The title is derived from domestic and international political criticisms that the foreign policy of the United States frequently and unilaterally tries to "police the world". Team America follows the fictional titular paramilitary police force and their recruitment of a Broadway actor in an attempt to save the world from Kim Jong-il, who is leading a conspiracy of Islamic terrorists and liberal Hollywood actors in a bid for global destruction.
|Team America: World Police|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Trey Parker|
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||Thomas M. Vogt|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$51 million|
Instead of live actors, the film uses a style of puppetry based on Supermarionation, known for its use in the British TV series Thunderbirds, although Stone and Parker were not fans of that show. The duo worked on the script with former South Park writer Brady for nearly two years. The film had a troubled time in production, with various problems regarding the marionettes, as well as the scheduling extremes of having the film come out in time. In addition, the filmmakers fought with the Motion Picture Association of America, who returned the film over nine times with an NC-17 rating due to an explicit sex scene. The film was cut by less than a minute and rated R for "graphic crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language – all involving puppets".
The film premiered at the Denver Film Festival on October 14, 2004, and was released theatrically in the United States the following day on October 15, 2004 by Paramount Pictures. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and grossed over $52.1 million worldwide against its $32 million budget.
Team America, a paramilitary counter-terrorist police force, eliminates a gang of terrorists in Paris, accidentally destroying the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre in the process. The team include Lisa, a young psychologist; her love interest Carson; Sarah, a psychic; Joe, a jock who is in love with Sarah; and Chris, a martial arts expert who harbors a deep hatred of actors. Carson proposes to Lisa, but a terrorist shoots him dead as he is doing it.
Team America leader Spottswoode brings brilliant Broadway actor Gary Johnston to Team America's base in Mount Rushmore and asks him to use his acting skills to infiltrate a terrorist cell. Unbeknownst to the team, North Korean dictator and gangster Kim Jong-il is supplying international terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. Gary infiltrates a terrorist group in Cairo. The team is discovered and a chase ensues, with the team killing the terrorists. However, the city is left in ruins, drawing criticism from the Film Actors Guild (often shown as 'F.A.G.' in the film), a union of liberal Hollywood actors led by their leader Alec Baldwin.
At the base, Gary tells Lisa that, as a child, his acting talent caused his brother to be savagely killed by gorillas. While the two grow close and have (puppet) sex, terrorists blow up the Panama Canal as retaliation for Cairo, which the Film Actors Guild blame on Team America. Gary, feeling his acting talents have again resulted in tragedy, abandons Team America. The remaining members depart for the Middle East, but are defeated and captured by North Korean forces while Michael Moore blows up Team America's base in a suicide attack. In North Korea, Kim invites the Film Actors Guild and world leaders to a peace ceremony, planning to detonate a series of bombs around the globe while they are distracted.
Succumbing to depression, Gary is reminded of his responsibility by a speech from a drunken drifter. Returning to the team's base, he finds Spottswoode has survived the suicide bomb attack. After regaining Spottswoode's trust by giving him a blowjob and undergoing one-day training, Gary goes to North Korea, where he uses his acting skills to infiltrate the base and free the team, although Lisa is held hostage by Kim. The team are confronted by members of the Film Actors Guild and engage them in a fight in which most of the actors are killed. After Gary uses his acting skills to save Chris from Susan Sarandon, Chris confesses to Gary that the reason why he hates actors is because that he was raped by the cast of the musical Cats when he was 19 years old.
The team crash the peace ceremony and Gary goes on stage where he convinces the world's leaders to unite, using the drifter's speech. Alec Baldwin can't counter Gary's arguments, so Kim betrays and kills Baldwin ("You are useress to me, Arec Baldwin!"), but is kicked over a balcony by Lisa and impaled on a Pickelhaube, exposing his true form as an enormous extra-terrestrial cockroach, which flees in a spaceship, promising to return. Gary and Lisa begin a relationship and the team reunites, preparing to fight the world's terrorists once again.
- Trey Parker as Gary Johnston / Joe Smith / Carson / Kim Jong-il / Hans Blix / Matt Damon / Tim Robbins / Sean Penn / Michael Moore / Helen Hunt / Susan Sarandon / Drunk in Bar / Liv Tyler / Janeane Garofalo
- Matt Stone as Chris Roth / George Clooney / Danny Glover / Ethan Hawke / Peter Jennings / Martin Sheen
- Kristen Miller as Lisa Jon
- Masasa Moyo as Sarah Wong
- Daran Norris as Spottswoode
- Phil Hendrie as I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. / Chechen terrorist
- Maurice LaMarche as Alec Baldwin
- Chelsea Marguerite as French mother
- Jeremy Shada as Jean Francois
- Fred Tatasciore as Samuel L. Jackson
- Scott Land, Tony Urbano, and Greg Ballora as Lead puppeteers
- Adrian Connon McDonald as Kim Jong-il
The film also features a man dressed as a giant statue of Kim Il-sung, two black cats, two nurse sharks, and a cockroach, with the difference in size with the marionettes played for humorous effect. A poster of The Barbi Twins was featured on the billboard in Times Square, making the Twins the only non-marionettes in the film.
After the "hassle" of producing their first film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Parker and Stone vowed never to create another movie. The film's earliest origins involve Parker and Stone watching Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Thunderbirds on television while bored. When the duo saw the series, they recalled seeing it on television but were not fans. Parker found that the series was unable to hold his interest as a child because "the dialogue was so expository and slow, and it took itself really seriously." The duo inquired about the rights to the series and found out that Universal Studios was doing a Thunderbirds film directed by Jonathan Frakes. "We said, 'What? Jonathan Frakes is directing puppets?' and then we found out it was a live-action version, and we were disappointed," said Parker. The two then read that The Day After Tomorrow had been sold to 20th Century Fox due to a one-line pitch regarding global warming, which Parker and Stone found hilarious and "insane." Parker recalled Stone running up to him during work at South Park holding the paper, who sat down and read the synopsis regarding "sudden global warming attacking the earth." The two were in tears from laughing. The two got a copy of the script, and soon realized that The Day After Tomorrow was the "greatest puppet script ever written". Originally intending to do a shot-for-shot puppet parody of The Day After Tomorrow, Parker and Stone were advised by their lawyers that there could be possible legal repercussions. The spoof would have been called The Day After the Day After Tomorrow, and been released a day later than The Day After Tomorrow. News broke of the duo signing on to create the film on October 17, 2002, with Stone revealing that it would be a homage to Anderson. The news was confirmed in June 2003, with Variety quoting Stone as saying "What we wanted was to do a send-up of these super important huge action movies that Jerry Bruckheimer makes."
Before production began, Team America was championed at Paramount Pictures by Scott Rudin, who had been the executive producer for Parker and Stone's previous film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Other studio executives were initially unenthusiastic about the project: the studio was in favor of the film's lack of political correctness, but were confused by the use of puppets. The executives explained that they could not make profit from an R-rated puppet feature, and Parker countered that similar things had been said about the South Park film, an R-rated animated musical which had become a box-office hit. Tom Freston, who was co-president of Viacom, Paramount's parent company, also supported the film, feeling that Paramount should make more lower-budget films that appeal to children and young adults after the studio's failures with adult-oriented films such as The Stepford Wives. According to Parker and Stone, executives were finally won over after they saw the dailies from the film's production.
Parker, Stone, and longtime writing partner Pam Brady spent nearly two years perfecting the Team America script. For influences, they studied scores of popular action and disaster films, such as Alien, Top Gun, and S.W.A.T. The duo watched Pearl Harbor to get the nuances of the puppets just right when they were staring at each other, and also used Ben Affleck as a model. To help shape the film's archetypal heroes (from the true believer to the reluctant hero to the guy who sells out his friends for greater glory), they read the books of Joseph Campbell. "On one level, it's a big send-up," Brady said. "But on another, it's about foreign policy." The first draft of the script was turned in well before the Iraq War. The film takes aim at various celebrities, many of whom came out in opposition to the Iraq War in 2003. Brady explained that the film's treatment of celebrities was derived from her annoyance at the screen time given to celebrities in the beginning of the Iraq War, in lieu of foreign policy experts.
The film's central concept was easier to conceive than to execute. Team America was produced using a crew of about 200 people, which sometimes required four people at a time to manipulate a marionette. The duo were forced to constantly rewrite the film during production due to the limited nature of the puppets. The 270 puppet characters were created by the Chiodo Brothers, who previously designed puppets for films such as Elf and Dinosaur. The costumers of the crew were responsible for making sure the over 1,000 costumes remained in cohesive order and were realistic.
Production began on May 23, 2004. The project was interrupted multiple times early on in production. As soon as filming began, Parker and Stone labored to find the right comic tone; the original script for the film contained many more jokes. After shooting the very first scene, the two realized the jokes were not working, and that the humor instead came from the marionettes. "Puppets doing jokes is not funny," Stone found. "But when you see puppets doing melodrama, spitting up blood and talking about how they were raped as children, that's funny." Filming was done by three units shooting different parts at the same time. Occasionally, the producers had up to five cameras set up to capture the scene. The film was mainly based on the 1982 cult classic action film Megaforce, of which Parker and Stone had been fans. Many ideas had been copied such as the flying motorcycle sequence.
The film was painstakingly made realistic, which led to various shots being re-done throughout the process due to Parker and Stone's obsession with detail and craftsmanship. For example, a tiny Uzi cost $1,000 to construct, and Kim Jong-il's eyeglasses were made with hand-ground prescription lenses. Although the filmmakers hired three dozen marionette operators, simple performances from the marionettes were nearly impossible; a simple shot such as a character drinking might take a half-day to complete successfully. Parker and Stone agreed during production of Team America that it was "the hardest thing [they'd] ever done."
Rather than rely on computer-generated special effects added in post-production, the filmmakers vied to capture every stunt live on film. Parker likened each shot to a complicated math problem. The late September 2004 deadline for the film's completion took a toll on both filmmakers, as did various difficulties in working with puppets, with Stone, who described the film as "the worst time of [my] life," resorting to coffee to work 20-hour days, and sleeping pills to go to bed. The film was barely completed in time for its October 15 release date. At a press junket in Los Angeles on October 5, journalists were only shown a 20-minute reel of highlights because there was no finished print. Many of the film's producers had not seen the entire film with the sound mix until the premiere.
Even before the scene's submission to the Motion Picture Association of America, Parker planned to "have fun" pushing the limits by throwing in the graphic sex scene. The duo knew the racy film would be met with some opposition, but were outraged when the film came back with their harshest rating NC-17. The original cut's minute-and-a-half sex scene with Gary and Lisa was cut down to 50 seconds. The original scene also featured the two puppets urinating and defecating on one another, which was based on what children do humorously with dolls such as Barbie and Ken. At least nine edits of the puppet love scene were shown to the MPAA before the board accepted that it had been toned down enough to qualify for an R rating. Parker contrasted the MPAA's reluctance for the sex scene to their acceptance of the violence: "Meanwhile, we're taking other puppets and, you know, blowing their heads off, they're covered with blood and stuff, and the MPAA didn't have a word to say about that." In addition to the sex scene, the MPAA also objected to the scene in which the Hans Blix puppet is eaten by sharks. Stone and Parker had faced a similar conflict with their previous film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut in 1999.
The film's score was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. The soundtrack also contains “Magic Carpet Ride” performed by Steppenwolf, “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” performed by Tomoyasu Hotei, “Forbidden Bitter-Melon Dance” performed by Jeff Faustman, “Bu Dunyada Askindan Olmek” performed by Kubat, and songs by Trey Parker including “Everyone Has AIDS”, “Freedom Isn't Free”, “America, Fuck Yeah”, “America, Fuck Yeah (Bummer Remix)”, “Derka Derk (Terrorist Theme)”, “Only a Woman”, “I'm So Ronery”, “The End of an Act”, “Montage” and “North Korean Melody”.
Individuals parodied in the filmEdit
Famous people depicted as puppets, and lampooned, 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, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, Fidel Castro, Peter Jennings and Hans Blix. Almost all of them are killed in gory and violent ways.
Reactions from those parodied were mixed; Baldwin found the project "so funny", and expressed interest in lending his voice to his character. In a 2008 video interview with Time, Baldwin related how his daughter's classmates would recite Kim Jong-il's line to him, "You are useress to me, Arec Bardwin. [sic]" 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 film. Matt Damon is portrayed as a simpleton who can only say his own name. When asked about the film in 2016, Matt stated that he was confused by the portrayal, given that he was already known as both "a screenwriter and an actor":
|“||I was always bewildered by that, and I never talked to Trey and Matt about that. And incidentally, I believe those two are geniuses, and I don't use that word lightly. I think they are absolute geniuses, and what they've done is awesome and I'm a big fan of theirs, but I never quite understood that one.||”|
Stone and Parker had earlier stated in an interview that they were inspired to give the Damon character that personality only after seeing the puppet that was made for him, which "looked kind of mentally deficient".
Kim Jong-il, a noted film buff, 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 film; the country refused saying that North Koreans had been rebuffed in their effort to undermine the Czech Republic's post-Communist-era freedom. 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 I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. 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.||”|
The world premiere of Team America: World Police took place on October 11, 2004 in Hollywood, California. The United States premiere was on October 14, 2004 at the Denver Film Festival. Paramount Pictures released the film in the United States on October 15, 2004.
The film was released on DVD and VHS in the United States on May 17, 2005 by Paramount Home Entertainment, available in both R-rated and unrated versions. The film was released on Blu-ray on October 13, 2015 in the United States.
Team America: World Police has received mostly positive reviews from critics. Based on 194 reviews, the film received a 77% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus states, "Team America will either offend you or leave you in stitches. It'll probably do both." The film also holds a rating of 64 out of 100 at Metacritic based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson was supposed to have met Parker before production, but they cancelled the meeting, acknowledging he would not like the film's expletives. Anderson saw the completed film and 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. Before the film's release, it was criticized by Matt Drudge and conservative group Move America Forward for mocking the War on Terror. Before Team America was released, statements were released by a "senior Bush administration official" condemning the film. Upon receiving the news, the duo called and found it was instead a "junior staffer," causing Stone to quip "What is it – junior or senior? What are we talking about here? Who knows? It might have been the janitor." The two eventually decided it was free publicity, with which they were fine. Some media outlets interpreted the film's release on October 15 to be in theaters before the November elections. In reality, the release date had nothing to do with the elections; in fact, the film was intended to be released earlier, but production fell behind. Director Quentin Tarantino counted Team America: World Police in his list of top 20 films released since 1992, when his career as a filmmaker began.
Team America earned $12,120,358 in its opening U.S. weekend, ranking number three behind Shark Tale and Friday Night Lights. The film eventually grossed a total of $50,946,640, with $32,886,074 in U.S. domestic receipts and $18,160,566 in international proceeds.
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.||”|
|Empire Award||Best Comedy||Team America: World Police||Won|
|Golden Schmoes||Best Comedy of the Year
Best Music in a Movie
Most Memorable Scene in a Movie
|Team America: World Police||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer||Best Comedy||Team America: World Police||Nominated|
|IFMCA Award||Best Original Score for a Comedy Film||Harry Gregson-Williams||Nominated|
|Golden Reel Award||Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Animated||Bruce Howell (supervising sound editor)
Beth Sterner (supervising sound editor)
Thomas W. Small (supervising foley editor)
Lydia Quidilla (supervising dialogue editor)
Robert Ulrich (supervising adr editor)
Chuck Michael (sound effects editor)
Peter Zinda (sound effects editor)
Jon Title (sound effects editor)
Michael Kamper (sound effects editor)
Doug Jackson (sound effects editor)
Cary Butler (sound effects editor/dialogue editor)
Fred Burke (foley editor)
Scott Curtis (foley editor)
Nic Ratner (music editor)
|MTV Movie Award||Best Action Sequence||Team America: World Police||Nominated|
|OFCS Award||Best Animated Feature||Team America: World Police||Nominated|
|People's Choice Award||Favorite Animated Movie||Team America: World Police||Nominated|
|Golden Satellite Award||Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media||Team America: World Police||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Award||Choice Movie: Animated/Computer Generated||Team America: World Police||Nominated|
|Team America: World Police|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||October 19, 2004|
January 10, 2005 (CD)
|Harry Gregson-Williams film scores chronology|
The film's soundtrack was released on October 19, 2004 and on CD on January 10, 2005 by Atlantic Records.
|“Magic Carpet Ride”||Steppenwolf|
|“Battle Without Honor or Humanity”||Tomoyasu Hotei|
|“Everyone Has AIDS”||Trey Parker|
|“Freedom Isn't Free”||Trey Parker|
|“America, Fuck Yeah”||Trey Parker|
|“America, Fuck Yeah (Bummer Remix)”||Trey Parker|
|“Derka Derk (Terrorist Theme)”||Trey Parker|
|“Only a Woman”||Trey Parker|
|“I'm So Ronery”||Trey Parker|
|“The End of an Act”||Trey Parker|
|“Forbidden Bitter-Melon Dance”||Jeff Faustman|
|“Bu Dunyada Askindan Olmek”||Kubat|
|“North Korean Melody”||Trey Parker|
|“The Team America March”||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|“Lisa & Gary”||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|“Putting a Jihad On You”||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|“Kim Jong Il”||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|“Mount, Rush, More”||Harry Gregson-Williams|
In the aftermath of the December 2014 terrorism threats by Guardians of Peace on showings of the film The Interview, which resulted in Sony Pictures pulling the film from release, several theatres, including Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, protested the loss by scheduling free showings of Team America: World Police. However, Paramount pulled distribution of Team America from theaters, including those in Cleveland, Atlanta, and New Orleans. This action was seen by President Barack Obama as an attack on freedom of speech by Hollywood studios, and others as an act of pure cowardice. In the aftermath, sales of the film on Amazon skyrocketed until copies were sold out in December 2014. Snippets of the film mocking Kim Jong-il are reportedly set to be included, alongside copies of The Interview, in helium-filled balloons launched by North Korean defectors into their home country in an effort to inspire education on the Western world's views on it.
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...the Hollywood big-hitters all insist they would have been offended to be left out of the film.
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