TEAM AMERICA Puppets that give us a woody.

Team America
dir. Parker
Opens Fri Oct 15
Various Theaters

First things first: the Motion Picture Association of America has given Team America: World Police an "R" rating for graphic violence, strong language, and sexual situations--all involving puppets. And they couldn't be more wrong--this movie deserves at least an "NC-17." Why, I'd even go as far as to give Team America a "XXX-17" rating, because anyone who would direct a movie where puppets shoot rocket launchers, blow up national monuments, call each other "titty-fucking cocksuckers," and bang each other doggy-style are a couple of sick jerk-offs. That being said, if you possess an extra ass, you'd better bring it with you to the theater, because you're going to laugh at least one of them off.

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have not only created a meticulous homage to the terrific Gary Anderson Thunderbirds series of the '60s (in which a globe-trotting team of marionettes save the world), but also a biting commentary on the very modern "war on terror" that gleefully cuts both ways. "Team America" is a international police force whose mission is track down terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction--and kill them with even bigger weapons of mass destruction. After destroying half of Paris while trying to capture a small suitcase bomb, the leader of Team America (Mr. Spottswoode) realizes they need a new member who can infiltrate terrorist cells in the Middle East. And who better than a Broadway actor?

After actor Gary Johnston is recruited into the team, he learns a terrorist mastermind (South Korea's Kim Jong Il) is planning a campaign of worldwide destruction. Unfortunately, the patriotic Team America's efforts to save the planet are thwarted by pussy peaceniks from the Film Actor's Guild (F.A.G.), which includes Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Janeane Garofalo, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon. (Oh, and a very fat Michael Moore with dynamite strapped to his belly.) Will Team America be able to stop the maniacal Kim Jong Il? And more importantly, will the DVD version restore the original four-minute puppet sex scene where Gary bangs his girlfriend doggy-style?

One thing is certain: the creative team of Parker and Stone take their fun seriously. While the pair obviously enjoy skewering the "fuck 'em all" ethos of the American redneck, they're just as happy torturing, blowing up and beheading puppet representations of the liberal acting community. But none of their hilarious jokes or jaw-dropping crudity takes precedence over what is very accomplished filmmaking. The miniature sets are beautifully textured and deep, and Parker and Stone obviously share the Anderson Thunderbirds ethic of making every shot as realistic as possible--whether a puppet is being devoured by an actual shark, or exiting a bar and vomiting his guts out.

And like the classic South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, the film's songs add yet another level of hilarity. Whether it's the frustrated Kim Jong Il staring forlornly into his shark tank singing "I'm So Lonely," or the action packed Team America theme song ("America--Fuck Yeah!"), music is just another weapon in Parker and Stone's gut-busting arsenal. Disgusting and immature? You betcha. But like Alec Baldwin, no one's safe from Parker and Stone's team of badass gun-totin' marionettes. And the world is better place for it.