South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have delivered the most crude, offensive and hands down funniest film of the year. The South Park movie was a sleeper hit, and with a five-year segue to their next film, fans were presumably primed with anticipation. Advanced screenings of Team America were nearly unanimous in their praise. So, why did it bomb at the box office, pulling in just over $12 million during its opening weekend?
A sold out audience gave Fahrenheit 9/11 a standing ovation after its Washington premiere. The crowd was littered with Democratic party activists, famous for D.C. faces and mostly jubilant members of the media. The film went on gross more than $120 million domestically and over $200 million worldwide.
But Fahrenheit was only the first in a series of anti-conservative films to debut this year. There have been additional documentary style offerings such as Outfoxed and Bush’s Brain. George Butler, working from Douglas Brinkley’s biography, tries to do for John Kerry in Up the River what he did for Arnold Schwarzenegger in Pumping Iron. And then there are the year’s reliable staple of openly fictional works that just happen to tilt left, such as The Manchurian Candidate and Angels in America.
More than a month prior to the Team America‘s release, the Drudge Report posted a complaint from an anonymous White House source upset over the film’s alleged content. Reportedly, Parker and Stone had produced an opus mocking the White House and U.S. military’s proficiency in their war on terror. The film’s preview had in fact promised that George Bush, along with a litany of other figures, would be offended when they saw the film. You could almost see leftist moviegoers salivate as they prepared to add Team America to the yearlong leftist film fest.
But Parker and Stone had a bunker busting surprise–their film hits liberals just as hard, if not harder, than its sendup of the war on terror. Many have taken its equal opportunity assault to be a reflection of libertarian values. Its main target has repeatedly been identified as the Jerry Bruckheimer styled “epic” action films of the last two decades. Still, politically speaking, the film’s heroes ultimately are the U.S. military and American values.
While Team America has been a huge hit with audiences, most liberal film critics were quick to pounce on its harsh treatment of Hollywood activists like Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Thinking perhaps that its readers needed a clarifying preface, Slate underscored its review, “The puppets of Team America skewer the right. If only they’d stopped there.” As conservative blogger Armed Prophet responded, “You’ve never seen a Hollywood comedy film tilt rightward and it bothers you. Well, good. Now you know what it’s like to be me watching the ‘Daily Show.’” Roger Ebert, parsing praise of the film’s treatment of military intervention claimed to be unimpressed by its similar vulgar treatment of Hollywood. But a stroll through the Ebert archives, or even just to his South Park review, is demonstrative of his normal lack of prudence when it comes to embracing crude material.
Team America may have given conservatives a mainstream, political film to call their own, but it hasn’t given them the blockbuster box office credibility that Michael Moore handed the left. In addition to its impressive box office totals, Fahrenheit moved more than 2 million DVD units on opening day alone–shattering the record for non-fiction titles. In the White House race, John Kerry has struggled most in raising the enthusiasm level of his supporters to a level on par with that of President Bush’s loyal base. But when it comes to filmmaking, political conservatives just can’t compete. The Passion of the Christ may have pulled in Finding Nemo-like numbers, but Celsius 41.11 has yet to make $100,000.
For months, there has been speculation as to whether Fahrenheit 9/11 or any of the season’s other politically charged films could impact the election. Would Moore’s roasting of the war on terror give liberals an appetite for Kerry? So far, there has been little indication that Moore’s buffet is anything but comfort food for the anti-Bush crowd. So far, Michael Moore is 2-0 over Trey Parker and Matt Stone. However, the feud that began over Moore reportedly editing out-of-context a Parker/Stone interview in Bowling for Columbine won’t end at the box office. Their election day is February 27th, 2005: Oscar night, where both films are expected to receive nominations. Both films face uphill battles. Moore removed Fahrenheit from consideration in the documentary category so that it might be eligible for best picture consideration. And if the songs of Team America do receive a nomination, fans shouldn’t hold out for a soundtrack that mocks the very institution handing out the awards. As with the media’s treatment of the conservative -friendly film, the reviews may already be in.
Eric Pfeiffer is a Senior Writer for National Journal’s Hotline
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire