If you're easily offended, don't see Team America: World Police. But if you're partial to blistering, nonpartisan satire done with puppets who curse, puke, sing, and bring the Kama Sutra to life, it's your lucky f**king day.
The movie follows the exploits of Team America, a group of jingoistic do-gooders who travel the globe hunting terrorists and leaving behind the worst collateral damage this side of a Michael Bay film (who is not immune to the skewering, thanks to a hilarious love song entitled "Pearl Harbor Sucked"). When one of their own gets caught in the line of fire, an actor named Gary is recruited to infiltrate the terrorists --- via patchy skin grafts, awful facial hair, and an actual towel on his head --- and get information about the next attack.
Team America learns that all roads lead to North Korea's Kim Jung Il, who will no doubt commission some nukes especially for the US if he gets a copy of this movie. The crabby little tyrant forges an alliance with Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Matt Damon ("Matt Damon!"), and the rest of the left-leaning Film Actors Guild (F.A.G., naturally) in hopes of perpetrating an attack that will be "9/11 times a thousand"... or 911,000.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo responsible for South Park, make it look soooo easy. Screamingly funny songs, vile sight gags, and filthy dialogue (including a touching act of loyalty and a soliloquy revolving around a fitting analogy way too dirty to print) almost cause you to lose sight of what a technical marvel the film is. Marionettes! The Panama Canal! Panthers!
But don't look for the incumbent and the challenger here --- Parker and Stone are too clever to go for the obvious.
I was in quite the mood when I saw Shall We Dance?, having had a faith-shaking week that I won't go into since I only have 300 words with which to defend myself. Suffice it to say that I was choked up by the end of the Finding Neverland trailer that preceded the film. That's right --- the trailer.
A chick flick if there ever was one, Shall We Dance? stars Richard Gere as John, a vaguely dissatisfied lawyer who signs up for dance lessons in hopes of meeting the mysterious woman (Jennifer Lopez) he spied gazing forlornly from the studio's window. Instead of the exotic Paulina, however, he gets stuck with Miss Mitzi (Anita Gillette), the flask-tipping owner, and fellow students including Chic (Bobby Cannavale) and Link (Stanley Tucci).
For reasons known only to the cinema gods, John can't tell his wife (Susan Sarandon) about the dancing, which leads her to hire a wise private eye (Richard Jenkins) with a sidekick (Nick Cannon) prone to quotations. Misunderstandings, heart-to-hearts, revelations, blah blah blah. Not as good as the Japanese original, but for me, it worked.
Forget the frankly boring triumvirate of Gere, Lopez, and Sarandon --- Shall We Dance? is made digable thanks to professional scene-stealers Tucci (best in Big Night), Jenkins (the dad on Six Feet Under) and Cannavale (he of the leading-man good looks and character-actor ego last seen walking off with The Station Agent).
Sometimes, when a movie doesn't have to worry about that pesky Oscar campaign, you'll see testimonials in the ads from C-level critics instead of respected behemoths like Premiere and Variety. So, Miramax, here's my pull quote for Shall We Dance?: "I kinda liked it. Please don't fire me."
--- Dayna Papaleo