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Puppets are Less Wooden than CG

A few nights ago, we went to see TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE. I wasn’t expecting much — it’s gotten lukewarm reviews, and not everything these guys touch turns to mirth.

I was delightfully surprised by just how funny this film is. It’s crass, obvious, low-brow, and stupid. But I laughed. Lots. In some ways, this film is suffering from The Current Situation — given the subject matter (yahoo Americans fighting world terrorism), I think people were expecting more pointed social satire. This movie is perfectly content getting laughs by blowing things up, puppets having sex, and making fun of every bad Bruckheimer-movie-cliche there is. And it works. And when you leave the theater, you, too, will be singing, “America, Fuck Yeah!”

What’s comparatively surprising is how much more engaging TEAM AMERICA is than SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW. SKY CAPTAIN has good acting, a fun story, beautiful visuals, and one huge gaping flaw — dull pacing. Pacing is among the hardest cinematic elements to critique — it’s hard to define “good” or “effective” pacing. And pacing is more than editing — I’m not talking just about how scenes were cut, but also about how shots played out. The movie just drags on, when, considering it’s subject matter, it should be rambunctious. I think the main problem is that the director isn’t really a director — Kerry Conran made a short on his Mac IIci, and in doing so demonstrated an ability to imagine a visually lush and compelling world. But direction isn’t just about aesthetics — it’s not even mostly about aesthetics — in fact, aesthetics is a pretty minor concern, all others being weighted. And when it comes to the more crucial elements of direction — working with actors, the story, and moving the situation along, Conran fell short.

  1. This film manages to offend almost everyone and it made me howl with laughter.

    I think that it is a more successful political film than Farenheit 9/11 in describing the current American situation and illustrating the issues that many Europeans have with the “Team America” attitude to the “outside world”.

    There are loads of little touches that make this a film a joy to watch (“terrorise this”). The towel on the head and cotton woll beard disguise is fantastic.

    As for Sky Captain, I cannot agree more with your comments. I kept imagining the director saying (“pretend you are looking at a 500ft high spaceship”). It would have been much better to use synthetic actors as well as imaginery sets to try and make this film work.

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