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Friday, October 15, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Movie Review
"Team America": Parody lovers are in luck

By John Hartl
Special to The Seattle Times

MELINDA SUE GORDON / PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Wooden, wild and woolly: Marionettes Joe, left, Gary, Chris, Lisa and Sarah take no prisoners in "Team America: World Police."
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Might may not make right in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's new movie, "Team America: World Police," but it certainly makes a glorious mess.

The Eiffel Tower is toppled. The Louvre is destroyed. The pyramids are toast. The Sphinx is beheaded. Mount Rushmore is defaced.

It's all in a day's collateral damage for the marionettes of Team America, the terrorist-busting all-American superheroes who destroy continents in order to save them. Still, demolition can take you only so far when you're trying to spy on the enemy, so the team hires a method actor to dress and talk like a bomb-toting Arab and infiltrate their planning sessions.

Gary (voiced by Parker), who takes a vacation from his role in the Broadway AIDS musical "Leased" (a wicked parody of "Rent"), proves a natural in his new real-life role as a Middle East spy. He also catches the eyes of his fellow agents, including clairvoyant Sarah (Masasa) and jealous psychologist Lisa (Kristen Miller), who continue to fight over him while they're engaged in a deadly aerial battle.

Movie review


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***
"Team America: World Police," with the voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Daran Norris. Directed by Parker, from a screenplay by Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady. 100 minutes. Rated R for graphic, crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language. Several theaters.

All similarities to the romantic triangle in "Pearl Harbor" are emphasized repeatedly, as the lovers mouth unspeakably terrible dialogue and the soundtrack swells with swoony music. Just in case you didn't make the connection, there's a song that quite specifically roasts Ben Affleck and "Pearl Harbor's" director, Michael Bay.

All the characters are played by marionettes, which lends a distance to the graphic sex, violence, obscenity-laced dialogue and marathon barfing (as with all adventures from the "South Park" writing-directing team, this movie is emphatically not for everyone). The puppets, complete with visible strings and collapsible legs that obviously weren't made for walking, make the romantic clichés of historical blockbusters seem particularly ludicrous.

"Team America" eventually threatens to disintegrate into marionette mayhem, especially when Kim Jong Il and his nukes enter the picture, Hans Blix turns up and a crew of Hollywood liberals, including Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon, become subjects for target practice.

It's disappointing that Parker and Stone didn't do more with them or with their send-
 
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ups of Michael Moore and Peter Jennings. Yes, they're ripe for parody, but please, could we have a little more?

Still, Parker-Stone fans are likely to have a grand time anyway. If you couldn't resist their 1999 feature, "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," or this year's "South Park" assault on Mel Gibson, "The Passion of the Jew," this may be just the thing to get you through the election season.

Do stay seated as the final, quite lengthy credits roll. In addition to a run-through of the score's showstoppers, including Kim's oddly rapturous aria about his psychopathic loneliness, there are a couple of surprises worth the wait.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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