`Team America' irks conservatives, skewers liberals

Filmmakers say puppet satire hits both left and right


August 22, 2004|By John Horn | John Horn,LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOLLYWOOD - Conservative commentators have begun lining up to denounce Team America: World Police, a cheeky comedy due in October from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. But actually, Hollywood liberals - and one well-known producer of big-budget action movies - might have the most to worry over the take-no-prisoners movie.

Team America is being criticized as yet another broadside against President Bush from Hollywood liberals. But a key conceit of the Paramount Pictures movie, which is essentially an action film made with sophisticated marionettes visiting exotic locations, is that it depicts left-leaning show business elites as selfish and superficial.

Among the many prominent activists who may be shown in a less-than-flattering light are Ben Affleck and Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore.

The movie also spoofs many action-film conventions established and perfected by Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of such blockbusters as Con Air, The Rock and Armageddon.

"The joke of this movie," says Stone, "is that it's a big, dumb Bruckheimer movie, done with puppets." The five action heroes that make up Team America's terrorist-fighting "world police" and their various enemies are elaborately designed and costumed.

Parker and Stone, whose past humor targets included everything from Mormons to Canada, say Bush isn't even central to the Team America story. But some critics already are attacking the project, which is scheduled to hit theaters Oct. 15.

Earlier this month, conservative Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge posted a story under the headline "Paramount Puppet Movie to Mock Terror War." The article quoted a "senior Bush adviser" condemning the film as "unconscionable" for making fun of terrorism.

Less than a week after the Drudge Report item appeared on the Internet, the Wall Street Journal reported that Move America Forward, a conservative group whose Web site features criticism of Fahrenheit 9/11, also was blasting Team America sight unseen.

Stone says that satirists can make fun of world events without minimizing the gravity of such topics as war and terrorism.

"This movie exists as a metaphor," Stone says of Team America. "It's not about politics. And if there's one thing this movie ridicules, it's America's enemies, not America.

"When this movie is over, a lot of people will be confused about what side we're on," Parker says. "That's OK, because we're confused too."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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