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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Team America: World Police (Unrated Version)



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#1 of 103 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted May 15 2005 - 06:14 AM

Posted Image

Team America: World Police (Unrated Version)







Studio: Paramount

Year: 2004

Rated: NR

Length: 98 Minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, Anamorphically enhanced

Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1, English and French Stereo

English and Spanish Subtitles

Closed Captioned

Special Features: 7 featurettes, tests, deleted scenes, storyboards, theatrical trailers

Minimum Advertised Price, $19.95 USD
Release Date: May 17, 2005


I think my brain waves operate at a different frequency than those of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brains behind Team America: World Police. It’s odd, though - because whenever I see them making the rounds of the talk shows, I think they’re hilarious. But I never could get into South Park, their animated television series. And I just don’t seem to “get” Team America.

With Team America, Parker and Stone set out to make an extraordinary puppet show, and deliver a satire on not only the War on Terror, but on Hollywood action pictures, all in one shot. It doesn’t seem to want to pick sides in the war, however... lampooning both the War and the activists who speak out against it. It also seems to go out of its way to poke fun at the French, Middle Easterners, gays, and anyone else they can think of along the way.

There is no doubt about it... Team America is offensive. It attempts to be as offensive as possible across a broad spectrum of groups - sort of an equal opportunity thing - it just does so less successfully than it should.

The team in Team America is reminiscent of the Thunderbirds, only this team is made up of specialized soldiers in the War on Terror instead of a rescue squad. Instead of a secret base on an island in the Pacific, Team America is based inside Mount Rushmore. You get the idea.

After the opening sequence in which one of the team dies and half of Paris (the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre included) is destroyed by the inept soldiers, the team must find a new man to join them. They find the perfect person in the form of an actor we first see singing “Everyone has AIDS” in the musical "Lease."

Now, there’s a knee-slapper.

But, I suppose it’s no worse than the recurring musical theme played behind many of the action sequences: “America, F*ck, Yeah!” Now there’s an anthem we can be proud of.

The actor is perfect for the team, it seems, because only an actor “with a double major in theater and world languages” could infiltrate the terrorist organization, posing as one of their own.

From there, the team gets to cause more destruction to world class monuments and offend another group of people.

With that job done, we have to witness Gary (the actor / linguist) hook up “romantically” with a female member of the team. I would never have thought that sex between puppets could be so graphic.

Now, I’m no prude. I like bathroom humor as much as the next guy. I’m only as politically correct as I have to be, and can appreciate non-PC humor. I’m a fan of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles... which managed to offend every minority group possible in its day. It’s always a risk creating humor that is meant to be offensive. There’s a fine line between a guffaw and a groan. Unfortunately, Team America has more groans than guffaws.

For those who like this sort of thing, I guess Team America delivers. For me, viewing a 60 second scene of a puppet puking feels like a waste of at least 58 seconds of my time.

On the other hand, I like the “Montage” sequence, among several other clever and humorous parts of the film.

Parker and Stone seem to have an honest hatred for Hollywood and what it represents. They’ve never seen an actor they can respect, saying that actors are “too full of themselves” among other things that I can’t put in print. So, what do they do? They voice almost all of the characters themselves. They think they can do it better than anyone else (I have news for them, there). Do they not realize they’ve become what they despise?

Sight and Sound
Team America is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. The image is sharp and detailed, with good contrast. Black levels are strong, while maintaining detail in shadows. Whites are bright, detailed and restrained.

I have to say that skin tones look a bit like plastic...
(silly joke, I know)

Color seems accurate and well saturated.

The print is free of any noticeable defects. This is a good solid transfer of a clean print. Nicely done.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The track features excellent channel separation and solid frequency response. Music is well represented, sound effects have ample low end, and there is good panning across the front soundstage. Dialog is always clear and discernible over sound effects and music - a well balanced mix in that regard.

The surround channels are slightly underutilized. While they do provide some very good surround effects and ambient sounds, the mix is somewhat front heavy. Parker and Stone may have set out to make an “animated Bruckheimer” film, but the audio mix falls a bit short in the surround department. It’s actually a good mix, just a bit of a missed opportunity in some key action sequences. For instance, I expected to feel more a part of the action in the Panama sequence.

Special Features
Special Features are not anamorphically enhanced.

Team America - An Introduction (5:10)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone introduce you to Team America - what the team is and who the members are. Parker talks about “taking a giant step backwards” in this modern world of CG, and making a movie with puppets. It was a lot harder than he imagined. Parker and Stone’s disdain for Hollywood actors and producers is all too evident in this short featurette.

Building the World (12:41)
Production Designer Jim Dultz and much of the senior design staff discuss the details of the work behind the construction of over 100 sets for the film. It is pointed out that the foreign cities depicted in the film were purposely designed to be a “dumbed down, Americanized view” of the locale. They also fill you in on some “out of place” things to look for in the film - apparently, nearly every scene is filled with items. Good stuff, here.

Crafting the Puppets (8:00)
Puppet Supervisor Stephen Chiodo, Puppet Producer Edward Chiodo and Puppet Art Director Charles Chiodo, among others, talk about the insanity of creating a project of this scale and complexity involving 1/3 scale puppets. There is some excellent detail on the construction of these marionettes with animatronic heads.

Pulling the Strings (10:07)
A very interesting featurette that explores the difficulties faced in controlling massive numbers of complex puppets live, on camera, all at once. At times, a single puppet would require four or more people to control it!

Capturing the Action (6:43)
Lensman Bill Pope talks about his excitement in taking on a very different action film - one with all practical effects. After working on The Matrix, Pope was happy to work without a green screen.

Miniature Pyrotechnics (4:50)
All the pyro in the film were real, in camera effects. there was no CGI. This featurette explains many of the specific pyrotechnic shots in the film, and we see raw, on-set footage of the shoot.

Up Close with Kim Jong-Il (5:10)
This is a discussion of the creation of not only the puppet, but the character for the film. There was research done on Kim Jong-Il, and of course, both the puppet and the characterization were done up for comedic effect.

Dressing Room Test (2:04)
There is no explanation with this - it appears to be an early take on the dressing room scene where Spottswoode first meets Gary. Not much of interest, here... this needs some commentary.

Puppet Test (4:09)
A series of early puppet tests, some MOS, some with improvised dialog. This is of limited interest, and needs some commentary.

Deleted / Extended Scenes and Outtakes
There are 10 deleted / extended scenes and outtakes, with a “Play All” feature, totaling 6:06. I always like a director’s commentary with deleted scenes, providing some explanation of the cuts. There is no commentary, here.

Animated Storyboards
Those who like storyboards should enjoy these. A camera pans over standard storyboards while dialog plays along. There is also zooming and cutting, giving a good feel for the pacing of the actual scene.


2 Theatrical Trailers

Previews

Anti-Piracy Trailer
The Longest Yard (2005)
South Park Season 5
Fade to Black
Coach Carter


The previews automatically play upon disc insertion - but in a minor improvement over some titles, pressing the “menu” button will bring you to the menu.


Final Thoughts
While my review above is outwardly negative, there is a lot to like about this film. I enjoyed the extreme puppetry and the set design. I even laughed at about a quarter of the jokes. Overall, for me, the crude humor made this a more uncomfortable than enjoyable experience. I understand there are those who like this sort of thing - and those people will have an appreciation for this film.

Regardless of the crudity of the humor, the voice acting is a weak part of the film. I understand it’s part of the satirical feel, but it gets a bit tiring after awhile, when all of the characters sound the same.

For those who know going in that they like the film, you’ll be impressed with the A/V quality of this DVD - it is a very good transfer.

A collection of some interesting and informative featurettes, plus deleted scenes, screen tests and storyboards, make for some nice special features. A commentary would have put this over the top, but I understand that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are reluctant participants in commentaries.

It should be noted that I did not see the theatrical cut of the film, and Paramount only sent a screener of the Unrated cut. Beyond some additional shots in the notorious sex scene, I can’t comment on any other additions to the unrated edition. It may be that those with less of an appreciation for this brand of humor may actually like the theatrical cut better, since it can only be more restrained than this uncut version.

#2 of 103 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted May 15 2005 - 06:22 AM

Thanks for the warning, uh, review Scott.
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#3 of 103 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted May 15 2005 - 08:41 AM

I'd like to talk about this movie and the people who made it and the issues involved, but........... PM me for the rest of the paragraph

#4 of 103 OFFLINE   George_W_K

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Posted May 15 2005 - 09:40 AM

I really find it fascinating how we are all so different. What makes one person laugh, someone else might think is too silly, juvenile, or whatever. The same goes for things that make us sad, mad, etc. Yet most of us get along in some way or another.

As for this movie, I found it to be absolutely hilarious. If the "actors" weren't puppets, I probably wouldn't have found it to be as funny. I can't wait until Tuesday.

Great review, Scott, even if the movie wasn't your cup of tea. Posted Image I wish there were some commentaries too.

#5 of 103 ONLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 15 2005 - 11:03 AM



Tease! Posted Image Positive or negative?
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#6 of 103 OFFLINE   Adam_WM

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Posted May 15 2005 - 12:07 PM

I'm sure it has something to do with the politics of the movie... Anyway, I thought this movie was hillarious and I can't wait to get the DVD. Thanks for the review.
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#7 of 103 OFFLINE   David Galindo

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Posted May 15 2005 - 12:09 PM

Looks great, cant wait to pick it up on Tuesday! Though Im torn on the rated or unrated version...I hear the unrated is a bit too over the top. Ah well. Posted Image

#8 of 103 OFFLINE   Mike Williams

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Posted May 15 2005 - 03:41 PM

Scott, I'm glad you prefaced your review by saying you simply don't get "South Park" or "Team America," as it tends to color your review when you say that the movie is an equal opportunity offended, but "does so less successfully than it should." Because people who do appreciate and enjoy Matt and Trey's humor think it's right on the money and laugh at far more than 25% of the jokes. Different strokes, I guess, but it's more difficult to make "matter of fact" statements in your review when you've already admitted that you're just not a fan of their style. Otherwise, I thought the review of the DVD (not the movie) was excellent and I'm very much looking forward to getting this, since they've obviously done a good job with the DVD. Too bad there is no commentary though.

#9 of 103 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted May 15 2005 - 11:31 PM

Facts have little to do with a movie review, which is essentially an opinion piece based on certain given criteria and heavily colored by the reviewer's experience, likes and dislikes. This is especially true about comedy, which is one of the more "personal" film genres. Disliking this brand of humor doesn't color the "facts" any more than knowing that it has a following. It's a particular brand that is quite divisive, as can be seen not only by the varied mainstream critical response, but also the poor $32 Million domestic boxoffice take. -Scott

#10 of 103 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted May 16 2005 - 12:59 AM

This is what it might have sounded like: "This is where she would have sh*t on his face, had the MPAA not made us cut it out to get an R-rating." Buyer of the uncut version beware. I mean, what's a little p*ss between lovers when you also get to see puppet projectile vomiting (which made me laugh long and hard, by the way). I guess the bodily function stuff does walk a fine line, though. - Steve

#11 of 103 OFFLINE   dpippel

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Posted May 16 2005 - 01:09 AM

Thanks for the review Scott. I love South Park but found Team America to be yawn-inducing. There were some inspired moments, but they were few and far between. Overall I found the film to boring and unfunny. That being said I'll give it one more try when the DVD is released. Maybe it'll sit better the second time.

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#12 of 103 OFFLINE   Mark Anthony

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Posted May 16 2005 - 06:47 AM

As an Englishman, the way they have so successfully satired the american war machine under the guidance of Bush et al is deserving of an oscar in itself, I'll bet it's one of Michael Moore's favourite film's! And as for the disguise scene involving a towel, make up and some cotton wool...LMAO!! M

#13 of 103 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted May 16 2005 - 07:05 AM

Great review, Scott. Posted Image

I'm not going to concern myself with any of the political stuff in this film, I just want to laugh, and from what i've heard from my friends I WILL laugh, a lot. Posted Image
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#14 of 103 OFFLINE   George_W_K

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Posted May 16 2005 - 08:25 AM



Wow, I didn't know that it did that poorly. I don't usually check out box office numbers anyway, but I would have thought it would have done better than that. Although, I do know a few people who didn't go see the movie because they knew it was made with puppets. Posted Image I wonder how many other narrow minded people there are (in regards to the puppet thing)? Oh well, a couple of them are coming to my house for a "Team America" party Saturday.Posted Image Posted Image

#15 of 103 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted May 16 2005 - 08:30 AM

Heh... it wasn't the puppets that turned me off... in fact, that was the one thing that intrigued me about the film. I almost went to see it in the theater, but just never made it.

Of course, given how I disliked the film, I'm glad I saved the money... Posted Image

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#16 of 103 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted May 16 2005 - 09:12 AM

In all fairness, the DVD will probably make a good amount of money and more than offset any loses for Paramount. That doesn't make the movie good or bad but in the end it won't be a financial failure.

#17 of 103 ONLINE   TonyD

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Posted May 16 2005 - 11:23 AM

you know, i have never seen so many people wonder about the lack of a commentary as i have seen with this dvd. not just in this review but in every thread on every board discussing this dvd. i've even seen someone who said they werent going to buy it because of this, despite his tinking it was a favorite movie of his. anyway, here is what i posted in the other thread,(are these still called threads?) "hasnt there ever been a movie that was submitted for rating that purposely had too much of something that shouldnt be there, so the stuff wanted, wouldn't be noticed as much and wouldnt need to be cut. anyway i just finished the dvd. alittle disapointed in the movie. if it didnt have "puppets" and all the cursing i dont think there would have been too much to this movie. it was a lot of fun, just wasnt a great movie. ...... i gotta say that i wish matt and trey would not "voice" anymore characters in their movies. they just arent good and they all sound like south park characters. couldnt they at least hire people to impersonate the "actors" in the movie so they at least sounded a little like the people they are supposed to be. i looked at all the deleted scenes and sups, but didnt see the extended sex scene anywere. guess it isnt on the rated r version. the sups are terrific. very detailed on how alot of this movie was made."
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#18 of 103 OFFLINE   Lewis Besze

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Posted May 16 2005 - 01:03 PM

Yeah if you don't get South Park you won't get this one either.It may not skew the "facts" but it certainly lead you to "wrong" analisies. I. E. " America fuck yeah" wasn't ment to be an anthem, also they don't think they're are better actors just because they voice they characters,that's always been their staple, just like Mike Judge does it with B&B or King of the Hill.

#19 of 103 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted May 16 2005 - 01:46 PM

You say tomayto, I say tomahto... it's all semantics, really. It's illustrative of how divisive the film itself is, when it spawns these kinds of debates. I appreciate your thoughts and input, but I'll refrain from debate on the film itself so that there can be more valuable discussion of the DVD. Since it streets tomorrow, I suspect there will be more comment in that area, soon. -Scott

#20 of 103 OFFLINE   Lawrence X

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Posted May 16 2005 - 02:35 PM

Why as an Englishman? I'll agree that any satire of the American war machine deserves an Oscar if for no other reason. But it also deserves mention of our partner in crime, AKA Mini-Me, the good and honorable Tony Blair. I haven't seen it yet, but I can't imagine there aren't some excellent bits about Blair in there.