I knew I had to see Team America: World Police after I read the review of it by the Washington Post’s painfully sensitive and oh-so-politically correct Hank Stuever. Poor Stuever, there he was sitting at a preview in a theater packed full of young folks laughing their heads off every time one of “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America, five Stars-and-Stripes-clad marionette commandos, would blast the stuffing out of a towel-headed (literally!) Islamic terrorist-doll. Or at the film’s squishy, terrorist-appeasing Film Actors Guild (initials: F.A.G.–we know how incorrect that is!) headed by a duly mealy-mouthed Alec Baldwin marionette. Or at the Kim Jong Il marionette (voice of “Eric Cartman”) in powder-blue Mini-me suit warbling “I’m So Rone-ry” in best Oriental-stereotype accent (so mean to Asians!).

Surely this couldn’t be–aren’t young people all supposed to be antiwar, Ben Affleck-worshipping, Rock the Vote types, you know, the way all the young people were Nixon-hating flower children back in the Sixties? Why were all the 20-year-olds in Stuever’s audience guffawing at “Lease,” Parker and Stone’s sendup of the saccharine, lugubrious AIDS musical Rent? Why were they singing along to the “Team America” theme song, “America, F–k Yeah!”? Why were they shrieking when the Tim Robbins marionette went up in gasoline flames and when the Michael Moore marionette, an obese, stubbled grotesque with a hot dog in each hand, blew himself up via a bomb strapped to his girthful gut? By movie’s end, Stuever was in a paroxysm of cognitive dissonance: this couldn’t be. Surely Parker and Stone, being from Hollywood and all, had to be on the side of truth and beauty–that is, the anti-Bush, pro-“Farenheit” side, right? This was all a very subtle, very clever, very low-key parody, right? As for that audience–they just didn’t get it, right? So Stuever wrote: 

“Stunned by all the fun, I am almost moved to salute Parker and Stone for their nuanced and careful takedown of American jingoism and the seemingly disastrous foreign policy that Team America stands for.

“Only that isn’t quite how it played to an audience on Tuesday night, at one of those free-ticket radio station giveaway previews in a packed cineplex in Northwest Washington. The biggest laughs came when ‘Team America” assaulted any and all concepts of ethnicity, or when the joke was on gays, Michael Moore or a vast left-wing idiocy.

“The movie feels like an elaborate inside joke on the very Americans laughing hardest at its easiest gags, oblivious to the sly, allegorical digs at a USA brand of bravado. What I took as a lampoon of Bushworld seemed to be received, in the seats around me, as a triumph of Bushworld.”

Well, Hank, I’ll let you keep your elaborate inside joke. Me, I rushed to the next convenient screening. There, I hate to say it, I, too, was somehow “oblivious to the sly, allegorical digs.” The “nuanced and careful takedown of American foreign policy” went right past me, too.

I shrieked with merriment at the “Lease” theme song: “AIDS! AIDS! Everybody’s Got AIDS!” I chuckled when the dolls playing that insufferable real-life liberal movie-chick duo, Susan Sarandon and Helen Hunt, got sliced in half or beheaded by Team America. My sides split when the Kim Jong Il doll fed the Hans Blix doll to a tankful of sharks. I couldn’t stop the giggles at the terrorists’ faux-Mideast lingo, a stream of gibberish whose only intelligible words were “Muhammad” and “jihad”–or when Team America’s hero-marionette Gary disguised himself as an Islamic fundamentalist by staining his wooden face brown, pasting odd clumps of wool on it, and wrapping his head in a hand-towel. I’m sorry, political correctos, I laughed and laughed.

I must offer some warnings to the delicate of sensibility: “Team America” is often grossly obscene (one scene and two speeches in in particular were too much for me) as well as violent (the marionettes are stuffed with grisly, all-too-real-looking blood and guts. There’s X-rated marionette sex–although, c’mon, marionettes don’t have genitalia, so how graphic can it be? There’s a puddle of green vomit keyed to the tastes of your inner 10-year-old.

You might, if you are that sort, feel a notch unsettled by Team America’s penchent for overdoing it in their world-policing, as when they topple the Eiffel Tower and accidently blow up the Louvre in their efforts to squelch a cell of WMD-bearing Islamicists in a cunningly miniaturized, marionette-size Paris. I must say that I didn’t feel as bad about that as I perhaps should have. After all, the Team America bomb wasn’t really aimed at the Louvre but at that demolition-deserving glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. And how sorry can anyone be these days for France?

So, yes, “Team America: World Police” is tasteless. It’s cruel. It’s boorish. It’s merciless. It’s stupid and predictable of plot, and it violates all canons of politeness, beauty, decency, good taste, graciousness, and fairness. It’s not for your mother or your grandmother or your children or your clergyperson. It’s probably not even a very good movie. It’s…oh, just screamingly funny.