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.