Release Date: 10/15/04
Director: Trey Parker
Puppet Effects: Chiodo Brothers
Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Every so often, a movie comes out that is so atrocious and such a bad idea that it defies all rationale. Take "Thunderbirds" (2004) for instance. How could you - and more importantly, why would you - remake a Thunderbirds movie without marionettes?!? And if using live actors wasn't bad enough, they also dumbed it down into a kids movie! It's like they purposely and maliciously decided to take everything that was cool about the Thunderbirds and remove it from the film. Maybe they just wanted the name, in a sleazy attempt to sucker in naive nostalgia buffs. Or maybe, just maybe, the producers had never even seen the Thunderbirds before...
Fortunately, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have addressed this travesty with "Team America: World Police," an adult oriented puppet film that "Thunderbirds" could have, and should have been. Team America is a tribute to every elite gung-ho action team ever created, hell-bent on protecting the world from the evils of communism, socialism, terrorism, or whatever the distasteful ideology of the week is. In the name of "peace," "freedom," and "democracy," they do far more damage than good, oblivious to the fact that their altruism may not be as altruistic as they think it is. When TA learns about a new global terrorist plot, they recruit a Broadway actor named Gary Johnston to go undercover and gather intelligence. It turns out that weapons of mass destruction are being trafficked for some dark purpose, and it's up to Team America to save the world!
Visually, the movie is ASTOUNDING. Chiodo Bros. have done an AMAZING job with the puppetry and miniatures in this film, and what you see on the screen is true skill and craftsmanship. A lot of love was put into this film, and it contains numerous nods and pokes at the original Thunderbirds. It also contains the best vomit gag I've seen since Monty Python's "The Meaning Of Life" (1983). Some of the musical numbers are laugh-out-loud funny, while others are too heavy handed to hit the mark.
The only criticisms I would levy against the film would be some unevenness in the story flow, and the tasteless mean-spirted lampooning of real people. Using real people in the film breaks the suspension of disbelief, forces the audience back into reality, and makes the film needlessly contemporary. With fictional characters, "Team America" could have been a truly timeless film and work much more effectively as a social satire. As it is, it relies on anger and adolescent angst instead of subtlety and mature wit. Still, it's quite entertaining, and is a perfect reflection of the tragic absurdity that makes up the world as we know it.