The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Team America: World Police

I laughed uproariously at many things in this movie. I also sat drumming my fingers from time to time. About 30 minutes of editing could have paid off big. But for fans of the grosser efforts by Monty Python (think "Meaning Of Life") and the obvious connection to Matt Stone and Trey Parker's "South Park" series and movie, this is a politically incorrect gag-fest.

The technical production value is superb, within its own carefully constructed world. The movie is shot entirely with marionettes, using a conscious reference to the old UK TV show "Thunderbirds" (you will appreciate this more if you have seen that). They left the strings very visible and obvious, and the characters move with carefully planned puppet-like movements. The sets span the globe and are beautifully detailed and rendered, all in miniature scale. And just about every puppet and set is destroyed at some point in the movie. Parker and Stone said they didn't want anything left when they were done shooting.

The movie is a vicious parody/put-down of America's self-decreed role as policemen of the world. In this case, a team of five gung-ho actioneers fly where they are needed to wipe out terrorism (and blow up any historical landmarks or innocent civilians who get in their way). But to be fair, the movie also savages the left-wing liberal slant of the Michael Moore/Tim Robbins school, lambasting all the Hollywood celebrities who jump on the anti-war bandwagon.

The DVD is the uncut, unrated version, which includes close-up graphic sex between two puppets (neither has visible genitalia), long vomit sequences, and explicit violence showing puppets exploding bloody SPAM all over the set. Only you know whether you find this kind of thing funny. If so, go for it.

There are many interesting behind the scene extra features on the disc showing how they created the film. Very interesting stuff if you care about what goes into this kind of a production. I thought that they must have computer-superimposed facial expressions on the puppets, but they insist that there is no computer graphics used in the movie. Everything was done in camera. The puppets have intricate servo mechanisms controlling their facial movements and expressions, right down to synchronized mouth movements with the dialog. It could take anywhere up to four people to manipulate a single puppet for some of the more complex scenes. And some scenes featured many dozens of puppets on-screen simultaneously.

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