Thursday, October 21, 2004

"Maaatt Damon!"

(Not to be confused with Johnny Damon, of course. Congrats, by the way, Red Sox fans. Fuck those Yankee steroid bastards. Wait, wasn't that the name of that Wilco album?)

If there's one thing I've learned in this crazy, mixed-up world, it's that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are good for what ails ya.

Sick with the pink-eye-chills-and-wheezing-cough flu of death that your roommate has brought back from New York? Pop in the South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut DVD and at least you'll be laughing through your feverish delirium. Overwhelmed by innumerable life stressors? Take an evening to indulge in Team America: World Police and shit doesn't seem so bad after watching puppet sex, puppet puke, and puppet death for some 100 minutes. No, really.

I admit I was a pretty easy target for this movie. I went in wanting to love it, so it would have had to have been pretty bad for me to say much of anything against it. So I'll get that anything out of the way right now: yeah, the satire gets a little threadbare toward the end, especially when the peacenik members of the Film Actors Guild (yes, F.A.G.) start taking up arms in just as ugly a way as any of the equally stupid-looking American military cowboy types that the filmmakers have been lambasting throughout. And, though I think condemning the resolution as "cheap militaristic fatalism" is a bit much, the whole pussies, dicks, and assholes speech does seem a bit facile. This is where the collision of political satire and blockbuster action movie pastiche chafes most, and the fact that the latter is privileged over the former reeks more of cop-out than Parker and Stone's easy-breezy "we want everyone to laugh and have a good time" stance might suggest. They know how smart they are. And though they obviously despise celebrities who use their fame as a soapbox from which to espouse their usually pedestrian political viewpoints, why even touch this topic with a ten-foot pole if you're not really willing to go balls-to-the-wall with your own personal politics?

But I digress.

It's sick, it's hilarious, it's (mostly) everything you want a fucked-up puppet movie to be. The songs are, as ever, so cleverly right-on they're worth the price of admission alone. Even the diction is hilarious in its over-the-top accuracy ("Ah-meh-eh-ree-ee-kah!"). The pinnacle is Kim Jong Il's token sad-bastard ballad "I'm So Ronery," though the Rent send-up "Everybody Has AIDS!" ("Come on everybody/we've got quilting to do!") runs a close second. The puppet sex is just as ridiculous and obscene as they meant it to be (as Cassius so eloquently put it, "it's not so much what they do, it's where they have to put the strings." HEY OH!), and the puking sight gag mentioned above seems timed, much like old Marx Brothers routines, specifically to be seen in a theater with an audience. The dialogue (the women bonding: "I treasure your friendship, Lisa!") is so brilliantly flat, it's straight out of Syd Field, and their goosing of every conceivable action movie convention adds up to a kind of hysterical, Platonic, ideal vision of the very concept of "Blockbuster" that surely has Don Simpson rolling over in his grave, wishing he'd had the sack to do it first.

And, I don't know why the Matt Damon puppet--in all his chinny, sandy-haired glory--is incapable of saying anything other than his own name, but, by God, that's the funniest and most gratuitous celebrity pot-shot I've seen in ages.

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