By Tom Brook
BBC, New York
South Park's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have finally unleashed on US movie-goers their controversial anti-terrorism spoof Team America: World Police.
The members of Team America are on a patriotic anti-terrorism mission
Parker and Stone have moved from animation to puppetry for this their latest offering but the duo's outrageous humour remains the same.
Some of the more outlandish highlights of Team America: World Police include puppets engaging in explicit sex, a hero who vomits a disgusting amount of foul liquid and the brutal evisceration of several Hollywood liberals.
The film follows the exploits of a US-based team of anti-terrorism cops who patrol the world. It's a scatological satire with a political edge, put together with a passion by Stone and Parker.
They have created a world in which the patriotic Team America crew is set on a mission to combat the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il who's selling weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.
But the film's satire extends into virgin territory for a studio picture in this politically correct age. Not only does it attempt to extract humour from terrorism it also indulges in a host of other sins.
The film shows Arabs and Asians speaking heavily accented English that sounds like gibberish, a Broadway show that presents Aids as musical entertainment and brutal scenes in which puppets resembling Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are mutilated beyond recognition.
The film ridicules Arabs and Asians
It might not be to everyone's taste but the film does have a coherent narrative. The screenwriting team of Parker, Stone and Pam Brady spent two years working on the script and it shows.
Their satire is best when it targets the cliches of action films like Pearl Harbor and Top Gun. The directors have the films of Hollywood uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer clearly in their sights.
They've appropriated the dialogue of his action blockbusters and deployed their puppets to utter melodramatic lines that sound amusingly moronic.
But the humour begins to wear thin, especially with the violent and gruesome elimination of puppets representing Hollywood liberals who are opposed to their right-wing Team America compatriots.
In technical terms the film's puppets are expressive and enticing creatures that are clear descendants of the 1960s British TV series Thunderbirds.
The puppets are deliberately clunky
No effort has been made to hide the fact that they are marionettes and they move around in a deliberately clunky manner.
The best thing in the picture are the songs - stirring tunes with lyrics that mock the military bravado of the US and Ben Affleck's acting skills.
With its moments of kinetic erotic action, including an explicit scene involving the puppet hero and Team America's male leader, this picture can at least make claim originality.
But at its heart Team America: World Police is cynical entertainment. It may be intermittently amusing, but it's terrifically uninspiring.
Team America: World Police is out now in the US and is due for release in the UK in January.