The movie is essentially a parody of your standard summer blockbuster. In this case we have "Team America", the stereotypical hodge podge band of freedom fighters brought together to kick ass (not surprisingly) for America and for Freedom. It turns out that marionettes are the ideal vehicle for such a film: the summer blockbuster genre has at its very core the super huge special effect. A parody would be hard pressed to convincingly duplicate these effects. But these are puppets. So the effects are supposed to look silly. And this is fortunate: the film takes constant blissful pleasure in the blockbuster tradition of demolishing national monuments, from the Eiffel tower to Mount Rushmore.
Our team of freedom fighters hits all the standard cliche's: we lose a member, find a replacement, who gets jaded and ultimately must come to terms with his feelings about his job while the team comes to accept the new guy.
Of course, there is some sort of a plot as well. In South Park the movie, Parker used Saddam Hussein as his evil joke. This time it's Kim Jong-il. He's really no different than Saddam was last time around. Just a ludicrous bad guy. In this case he's busy masterminding a stupid plot where he unifies the hollywood liberals and various terrorist organization as part of your standard wreck the world plan. It's thin, but no thinner than what it parodies.
I think my general concern going into this movie was the politics. The movie could very easily get mired down in preaching a point. But thankfully it never really does that. It simultaneously makes fun of liberal hollywood actors, and the rah rah 'Go America' right wing stereotype. But the movie isn't really picking sides: it's more about parodying the genre of summer blockbuster then it is about right vs left or war vs peace. Thats a good thing. Parker has proven time and time again that he can make simple points very well. South Park has addressed countless social issues over the years, and the feature film really took issues like censorship and parenting in a very meaningful way. Team America doesn't spend much time trying to seriously address the issues. It's just simple fun.
The other major concern that I harbored was that the marionette jokes would run thin. As I said before, the use of marionettes works great for mocking special effects, but the film easily could have constantly referred back to the fact that we are watching puppets. There are only a few jokes like that. Since they are used so sparingly, they make it all the more amusing when it happens. And there's a lot of hilarity to be derived from puppet sex when the film is pretending to be serious about it.
Like all of Parker's movies, they come out guns blazing, and 30 minutes in, I find myself needing a commercial break. The jokes are constant and funny. Maybe too funny. By the middle of the film you see something funny but are so desensitized that it's tough to muster another laugh. Of course then they turn around and beat you over the head with something new.
It's also worth noting that the facial puppetteering is really cool. Everyone involved should be really proud of themselves for pulling off something so visually unique.
I really enjoyed the film. I went in with high hopes and was pleased to have them all met. Even my wife, who is quite sick of South Park and wasn't looking forward to watching this at all came out absolutely giddy with laughter.
If you're a South Park fan, you'll love this movie. If you're a fan of summer blockbusters, and can tolerate the language, you'll love this movie. If you're a prude, watch something else. As for me, this is the first movie in months that I decided to buy the DVD before it was over.