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Rapid Review: The A-Team

June 17, 2010

” I love it when a plan comes together”…

Normally, the first two or so paragraphs of any given Rapid Review would be devoted to discussing the director’s style, previous projects and any historical background necessary for the viewer to understand the review.  But, seriously….this is a review of  The A-Team.  I think I can dispense with the above background.

Instead, let’s take a trip in the ol’ Wayback Machine, shall we?  It is 1983 and a young girl ( I won’t name names) is gleefully allowed by her father to watch the antics of four crazy Vietnam veteran Special Forces members as they try and clear their names.  You see, these f0ur fine fellows were falsely accused of being war criminals, and while they were on the run, they worked as psuedo “soldiers of fortune”.   Each A-Team episode had a predictable plot arc: the fellows met up with a local baddie, devised a dastardly plan and then rigged up unusual traps/devices using basic household items.  Along the way, Dirk Benedict’s “Face” usually made out with a feathered-haired, frosted-pink lipsticked B-grade actress, Mr. T’s  B.A. probably said “I pity the fool that …(insert whatever the fool did to displease Mr. T here)” , George Peppard’s  Colonel “Hannibal” ate an entire cigar bit by bit, and something probably exploded.  Excellent family entertainment, overall.

Fire in the background makes anyone look cool.

Ah, to be young and have it be 1983 again.  I’m going to judge the film version of  The A-Team not on nostalgia, but how it stands on its own as a successful film.  You can probably see where this is headed.

The 2010 film of  The A-Team modernizes both the characters and the setting as is necessary.  This means bigger explosions, fancier gadgets and louder voices.  Right off the bat, this ruins part of the spirit of the “underdog” story.  It’s hard to feel sorry for these gents when they have so much high-tech “kaboom” in their arsenal.

Alas, if only their acting arsenal were as well stocked. 

Instead of being Special Forces officers in Vietnam, the characters have moved forward in time.  Their exact purpose in the U.S.  military is vague.  They fought and served with dignity in Iraq as Rangers, working for some time as a  “Black Ops” (other characters’ words, not mine) unit.

This is where the problems begin.  Most of these problems lie in the performances. The first problem is Jessica Biel – whose idea of acting is to look “steely” while glaring behind her aviators.  Her lips quaver in the appropriate situations, but that is about it.  We, the viewers, are supposed to believe that this shiny-haired, teary-eyed and big-lipped siren works for the Department of Defense.  Sure, why not.

Liam Neeson attempts to channel his inner ham

The second problem is our fabulous foursome.  On their own, Neeson, Cooper and Sharlto Copley are decent actors.  Here, however, they are given little to work with and descend into the realm of caricature.

In short, Liam Neeson – fire your agent.  The less said about this the better.  I will say that Mr. Neeson gamely tries to be as hammy and wink-wink as is possible in his  role as Hannibal.  I will also gamely say that it isn’t enough to win out over a very lukewarm script.

The only actors who manage to come out ahead of the game in The A-Team are the bad guys.  Patrick Wilson is a smug and amusingly bland C.I.A. agent and he somehow manages to get some of the only true (intentional) laughs in the movie.

The tagline for the movie is “There is no plan B”.  Well, there should have been. When writing this script I’m wondering if there was an option B, C or even D.  We can only imagine.  Instead, we are left with a light on logic, bland story and a choppy, forgettable finale.

I am as gung-ho as any gal can possibly be when viewing mindless summer entertainment.  I enjoy random explosions and in-your-face acting when it is accompanied by an equally entertaining script and appropriate scenery.   The only decent scenery The A-Team gives you is Bradley Cooper’s spray-tanned pecs, which deserve most of the credit for making several of the movie’s scenes watchable.  Shallow, yes, but accurate.

Overall, The A-Team is at best (drum roll for approaching pun) the C- Team.  I know I said I wasn’t going to compare the movie to the original series, but I just can’t keep that promise.  My advice?  Rent the original series and have some genuine campy fun.

Overall Grade: C –

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