This is the time when people find themselves up to their necks in the nonsense of the American political system. We tuned in to the political debate to see the f-bomb dropped, but were sadly disappointed when Kerry and Bush delivered the same ol’ cordial pre-programmed responses bouncing them back and forth like that dot-thing in Pong. But there are those willing to speak their mind. Not just on the subject of politics, but on the important issues, like puppet sex, action films and the sweet and sultry goodness of a middle-aged Korean man dipped in bronze paint. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are willing to push the free speech envelope to the brink with Team America: World Police.
‘ “The thing we found with Team America was that it wasn’t like making an animated feature. [In South Park,] we could have the army come in at any second. But with Team America it was much more like live action, the events were happening right in front of us,” comments Stone.
The all marionette cast is a silent homage to Gerry Anderson, creator and genius behind many of the classic marionette serials like Thunderbirds and Fireball XL5. “How could you have a Thunderbirds movie without marionettes?” asks Parker, referring to the recent Jonathan Frakes’ helmed failure. “The guy [Gerry Anderson] must have been insane,” Matt Stone adds. “I’m through with puppets after dealing with them day-after-day through one movie. Anderson dealt with them on that same daily basis for years and years. I’ve gained new respect for him.”
But are audiences ready for a movie with marionettes? Don’t people want over-the-top big budget spectacles or safe animated fare replete with wacky anthropomorphic sidekicks? “I guess the thing is that most films these days are mostly animated,” answers Parker. “I mean, when you look at Spiderman 2 – it’s mostly animated using computers. I suppose even when you look at films like the Matrix, they’re animated, more so than say Team America.”
Not that the boys don’t give audiences anything to ooh and aah. The villain of Team America is Kim Jong Il, reclusive dictator of North Korea. Stone and Parker built many detailed sets, including one featuring a large statue of the dictator himself. “We got a Korean guy, who looked like Kim Jong Il, and we painted him bronze and basically put him in the middle of the room. The shot was supposed to last only a day, but it ended up taking five days. The guy seemed really bummed out because he couldn’t understand what the hell we were doing. He’d only been in America for a short while, and he came here looking for the ‘American Dream,’ and we painted him bronze and mounted him on a pedestal with his arm up in the air for five days. I think he went back home after that.”
Though produced like a live-action feature, the film faced opposition from the MPAA who were fervent in their criticisms of Team America’s content. Nine different variations of a scene showing graphic puppet sex were submitted, each becoming gradually less explicit. Now, the film will debut with slightly toned down kinky puppet sex scenes. “You can only have puppets doing certain positions,” Parker learned, when the film finally received its rating, a mere four days before it was set for a sneak preview in over 800 theatres.
If you’re looking for a heated film featuring obvious political sway, however, you’re looking in the wrong place. Even friends of Parker and Stone, like George Clooney and Michael Moore (who spoke out against the war), are mocked in the film. Left or right wing, no one is safe from the balls to the walls attitude of these two controversial filmmakers.
If nothing else there’s always the puppet sex in the film, and it’s doubtful you’ll find those kinds of important issues discussed in any political forum this fall.