Back in 2004, South Park maestro Trey Parker directed Team America: World Police, a puppet feature satirising the US's handling of the world post-9/11.
The cool thing about this being a Trey Parker and Matt Stone movie is that it takes the piss of everyone from America to Kim Jong-Il, terrorists, Hollywood, the UN and even Michael Moore. The whole time mocking the stiff style of old puppet-based shows like Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet. The film sees Team America, a covert team of destructive, clueless heroes, intervene in various global clashes before hiring an actor called Gary to help out in missions where they need to infiltrate an enemy territory. Of course, this only leads to more mindless blunders.
Parker and Stone voice the majority of the film's characters and clearly have a ball spoofing the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon and other Hollywood stars. Believe it or not, Team America is also a musical as we first meet Gary singing in a Broadway show about AIDS and the soundtrack includes odes to various movie clichés in songs like "Montage", "Only a Woman" and the "America: F*** Yeah!" theme not to mention a song about how the then North Korean leader is lonely (or "ronery"). The humour is about as trashy, juvenile and outrageous as you'd expect: there's a graphic puppet sex scene, a long vomit sequence, the suggestion of forced oral sex, an inspiring speech involving genitalia...
The list goes on.
The best part of this film, however, is the creativity that went into making a movie using only puppets. The sets and marionettes look genuinely amazing and the jokes making fun of the fact they're stiff, lifeless and small are inspired, whether it's Hans Blix's puppet getting torn to shreds by baby sharks, casting cats as panthers, having a bug crawl out of Kim Jong-Il's body, having the puppets move purposely erratically or simply filling the characters with gore and then exploding them.
The fact that Team America: World Police didn't cause as much of a stir as The Interview did a couple of years ago is surprising since it's just as inflammatory if not more so. It's also much better and funnier: this is a daring and mad project that came out of nowhere but I'm sure glad it exists.