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Czechs take one for ‘Team’

Ministry refuses to remove puppet pic from theaters

Life imitating puppetry?

Only in the Czech Republic.

The North Korean embassy in Prague, perturbed over the skewering of Kim Jong-il in “Team America: World Police,” asked the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pull the film from local theaters.

The ministry, not surprisingly, informed the North Koreans last week that banning films isn’t really its job any longer. Since totalitarian rule ended in 1989, the state has kept its nose out of movie theaters, Czech ministry spokesman Vit Kolar told the embassy.

The North Korean request was “not realistic” because “this is a free country,” Kolar told reporters. Besides, he added, the ministry is used to turning a deaf ear to similar complaints from Cuba and China when they get bad press in the country.

Pic’s distrib, Bonton Film, was not contacted by the foreign ministry, according to Bonton’s Michal Kroupa.

But, not surprisingly, “The publicity has been fantastic,” Kroupa told Variety.

How much it may boost B.O. for the puppet parody of American jingoism remained to be seen.

The North Korean embassy in Prague was mum on the matter late last week, but it would seem “Team America” producers Scott Rudin, Trey Parker and Matt Stone can count Kim, North Korea’s film fanatic leader, as one of their more attentive audience members.

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