The casual destruction of Paris. "Everyone has AIDS." The inexplicable sound of violent, rampaging gorillas that accompanies Gary's tortured stare (and the eventual reveal, which causes the gag to trade up from "inexplicable" to "nightmarish"). Spotswoode, and the line: "Have you ever seen an ant eat his own head?" Team America's secret base, cleverly hidden behind the faces of Mount Rushmore. Sarah's useless mindreading skills. I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. "Freedom Isn't Free," Gary crying against a tombstone in Arlington Cemetery. Kim Jong-Il's pitch perfect "villain intro," with him glaring furiously through Coke bottle lenses from atop a plush velvet throne. The realization that Kim's speaking voice is basically the perfect blend of Cartman and the City Wok guy. The flawless aping - in virtually every frame - of the Michael Bay/Tony Scott/Simpson & Bruckheimer aesthetic, from the unhinged-from-reality camerawork to the bombastic soundtrack.
That's the first 20 minutes of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police.
In less time than it takes to get through the average episode of South Park, Stone and Parker's brilliant 2004 comedy lands more top-shelf punchlines and conjures more laugh-out-loud sightgags than we've seen in some entire comedy franchises (don't make me start naming names, Hangover trilogy). That, in and of itself, is remarkable. That Stone and Parker gave themselves the challenge of communicating their screenplay via an all-puppet cast is insane. That they pull off every bit of it is flat-out fucking mindblowing.
Team America is 10 years old this year, and - what with it being "America Fuck Yeah!" week here at BAD - it was inevitable that Parker and Stone's film would pop up in this week's round of trailers. As well it should: I don't feel like Team America's ever gotten the love it deserves. It failed to catch on with audiences at the time of its release (topping out at ~$50m on a $34m budget), and it felt like the film was available on home video for a good while before it started building the modest fan base it commands today. Yes, you and everyone you know are probably huge fans of the film, but how many people have you encountered who've never actually seen Team America? How many people have told you they didn't bother with it for a long time because they were turned off by the perceived politics of the film, the all-puppet thing, or...whatever?
From where I'm standing, it seems like Parker and Stone's legacy currently stands atop three massive pillars: South Park, Team America and The Book of Mormon. It is as important and successful a work of satire as either of those projects, and yet I feel like it's often treated as a footnote. Ironic, considering the work that went into the damn thing: a crew of 200 people brought this film to life using nearly 300 impressively expressive, gorgeously-realized puppets (some of which required three or four people to operate, depending on the demands of the scene). Every ounce of Stone and Parker's obsessive attention to detail was brought to bear on the production, which experienced numerous setbacks and came perilously close to being incomplete in time for Team America's announced-months-in-advance opening (two weeks prior to the film's October 15th release, Stone and Parker were still feverishly working to finish the film, and told Rolling Stone the production's problems seemed "insurmountable"). Both men walked away from the experience calling Team America "the hardest thing (they'd) ever done," doubtful that they'd ever want to make another movie.
Here's hoping they've had time to get over it and are ready to commit something to film again (of course we're all waiting for The Book of Mormon to get the big-screen treatment, but I'd be happy to see the pair doing anything that put them back in movie houses). Team America is just as sharp today as it was 10 years ago, a hilarious three-way gangbang with celebrities, Washington and Big Dumb Hollywood Action Movies as the participants. It's the most brutally funny, explosion-packed, all-puppet satire you could possibly watch this 4th of July, and if it's been a while since you've seen it*, there's never been a better time than during that rinky-dink BBQ you're planning for Friday night. Could end up being the MVP of the entire affair.
And if nothing else, it'll have your guests contemplating the sort of things that every American should be considering on Independence Day: our responsibility to the rest of the world, our box office's dependence on Michael Bay movies, and, above all else, the real-world cost of freedom ($1.05).
* = Note: To celebrate the film's 10th anniversary, the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin is screening the film at every one of its locations this Friday night. You'll have to check and see if tickets remain, but if they do...blow off the BBQ.