The A-Team (2010 movie) review…

The A-Team (2010 movie) review after the break…

The A-Team (2010 movie) review…

The television series, “The A-Team,” was once described as ” ‘Mission: Impossible’ for young boys.” Having watched the series back in it’s heyday, that quote is a bit misleading but not altogether false. The show, a staple of the mid-1980’s when pastels were in, the Soviets were still a serious national security threat and the name “Michael Jackson” wasn’t yet the punchline to every single joke about pedophilia, concerned itself with a group of Vietnam veterans accused of a crime they didn’t commit. To make ends meet while being on the run from authorities, they would help the innocent seek justice from those wishing to inflict harm upon others. Being a show for young boys, the crimes were less then subtle and the only characteristics missing from those villains were handlebar mustaches, a top hat and tying a damsel in distress to a set of railroad tracks. The group (of Vietnam vets, let’s not forget) would usually foil their weekly nemesis with oddly non-lethal Rube Goldberg devices and schemes because, after all, it was a show for young boys and not a re-enactment of a Navy Seal Team Six operation.

Making “The A-Team” into a theatrical movie is not a new concept – The notion of placing the likes of Hannibal, Face, B. A. Baracus and Murdock onto the silver screen has percolated for so long in Tinsel Town that the original actor who portrayed Hannibal, George Preppard, has long since passed away.

When creating movies based upon television properties, Hollywood has hewed towards two directions – Polite homages and outright parody. “The Brady Bunch,” an iconic 1970’s television show, decided to outright parody the wholesome Brady Bunch image in it’s movies with slapstick comedy and jokes centered on the seemingly puritanical family. “The Twilight Zone,” an absolutely iconic science fiction show from television’s black and white era, went with bone-chilling seriousness for it’s movie adaptation.

“The A-Team,” the movie, takes the more respectful approach – Respecting the intellectual property but mercifully replacing the original actors who, close to thirty years removed from their television prime, are no longer in any condition to be serious box office draws. While two of the original cast members re-appear in inspired cameos, their appearance (the original Face speaks briefly with the movie Face, the original Murdock shares a scene with the movie version) only underscores at how far removed they are from their youth. While I tend to be a fan of “extended versions” of movies and including original actors in the properties they used to be known for, this is one time when it was prudent to keep these small moments at the end of the credits.

The movie doesn’t add anything significant to the mythos of the series besides updating it for a contemporary audience – Exchanging the Vietnam veterans for Iraq war veterans and robbing a bank in Hanoi with seizing a shipment of counterfeit American money and the plates that were used to print them. The movie concerns itself with the origin of the A-Team unlike the television series where we meet them already as a finely-tuned team.

I feel bad for this movie but not for the reason one might suspect – It isn’t a bad movie, just an unnecessary one. Shackled to it’s television roots, the movie has no place to go – Shedding it’s child appeal makes it nothing more then a “Mission: Impossible” clone with different characters. It’s like an old digital photograph back when the resolution of those photographs weren’t very refined – The closer you look, the grainier the picture gets until the picture is unrecognizable. However, on the other hand, the cast and crew must be given credit for turning in the best possible “Mature” equivalent of an “A-Team” movie that could be produced. How many films can sell a scene of a parachuting tank shooting at flying Predator drones? This one did and that’s quite an accomplishment.

One bone of contention for this movie might have been it’s plot which is one too many twists too complicated for it’s own purposes. Gerald McRaney, a sly choice given his own 1980’s television credentials (and also quite a bit removed from his 1980’s fighting form), is briefly in the movie as an Army general who may be more involved in the A-Team’s set-up then previously thought. Yet the complication of the movie involving his character simply isn’t worth the payoff.

Another plot point that doesn’t make much sense is the character Face making the preparations for the final scheme instead of Hannibal, the traditional leader. The movie never truly sells why Face has to take over the final scheme – It’s not like Hannibal is injured or held hostage or otherwise incapacitated. Those reasons might have sold the plot point more but, instead, viewers must buy the fact that Hannibal is out of ideas and can’t figure out their adversary whereas Face, the A-Team’s equivalent of Warner Brothers’ cartoon character “Pepe Le Pew,” has that insight.

To be certain, the script makes more then a few pains to give hardcore fans their due – There is an early appearance of the familiar black-and-red A-Team van and a lingering “She doth protest too much” love-hate confrontation with Face by a female federal agent adds that pervasive female team member that the television series toyed with for much of it’s run. B. A. Baracas in the movie has the words “Pity” and “Fool” tattooed onto his fingers in honor of Mr. T’s famous quote, along with the trademark hairstyle that he wore (sans the chains). It even establishes a credible reason why B. A. hates to fly, especially with the less-then-lucid Murdock.

Perhaps the best compliment I can give this flawed movie, though, is that it makes you forget about the original actors. Liam Neeson makes you forget about George Preppard; Sharlto Copley simply “is” the new Murdock and Bradley Cooper is what Face would be like in the year 2010. Only Quinton Jackson fails to completely shake the shadow of Mr. T because, let’s face it, Mr. T had such a vivid look and delivery that few could emulate it successfully or, for that matter, exceed in building upon it.

The A-Team is a movie that is ultimately fifteen years too late for it’s own good and too mature for it’s roots. That’s too bad, because the result isn’t a bad movie but simply one we’ve seen before and better elsewhere. What do you say to a movie that brings it’s “A” game with “A-list” talent but results in a “B” movie?

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