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August 29, 2015

This Ain't Your Father's 'A-Team'

by Danny Gallagher, posted Jun 16th 2010 11:00PM
The poster for Going to see the new 'A-Team' movie wasn't a new movie-going experience. In fact, I've experienced it approximately 167 times before in my lifetime. It was just another big budget movie remake of a classic campy TV show that seemed to only aim for mediocrity by grave-robbing the memories of my youth spent unsupervised in front of the television.

I didn't have cable growing up, so the only time I could enjoy such classic kiddie staples of the 1980s such as 'Double Dare' or 'You Can't Do That on Television' were at a friend's house, my babysitter's place or my grandparents' living room. (That's right, my grandparents had cable before my parents did. I'm surprised I didn't have to enjoy the adventures of the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' on an Westinghouse tube radio.)

So I spent a lot of my TV time watching shows like 'The A-Team' in reruns. I really didn't like it. It was juvenile, even by my low standards. So my expectations for the movie version were already about as low as the direct-to-DVD sequel of 'The Dukes of Hazzard' movie that wasn't good enough to even attract a script skim from Johnny Knoxville. However, the only thing the TV show and director Joe Carnahan's movie have in common are the characters and that made it a whole lot better.

This time around, the characters seem to have more dimensions than their TV show counterparts. Sure that's like comparing Botticelli's "The Birth of Venues" to Jethro's "Velvet Elvis" seat covers, but they have more of a purpose in the context of the movie other than just their signature character traits. Some work and some don't. Hannibal, played with a steady and nicely paced Liam Neeson, is the wise old leader with plans more complex than NASA's drawing board but he also has a nice sense of sincerity and loyalty that's way more believable than the original show would allow the late George Peppard to be. His character is also the most toned down and considering Mr. T's portrayal of the hothead B.A., that's saying a hell of a lot.

Bradley Cooper also does a nice job as Face, the pretty boy soldier boy of the group who uses his oozing charm and ridiculous handsomeness to fulfill his part of the plan. The plot of the movie is more ingrained in Face and Hannibal's characters compared to the other two, so most of the film rests on their shoulders. For the most part, they do a nice job and don't let the retro kitchiness of the characters overtake the few dramatic moments the film offers.

B.A. and Murdock tend to veer towards the more ridiculous side. This time, UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson dons the mohawk and he tries his best to avoid mimicking that "jibber jabber" ridiculing, fool hating attitude that made B.A. so famous on television, but that just sucks all of the color out of the character. The film also tries to compensate for his lack of melodramatics and acting prowess with a plot twist that tries to explain why he's so toned down, but it so silly and completely opposite of what we've known about him that it feels like they are doing a parody of the original character. It's like watching Mr. T playing B.A. on thorazine.

The hands down winner in this cast is 'District 9's' Sharlto Copley, who plays the insanely suicidal pilot, Murdock. It's an interesting choice for the character because if you based your casting choices entirely on the TV show, just about any wise-cracking funny man in Hollywood could play the character by putting their own spin on it. He's clinically insane and clearly an undiagnosed schizophrenic with a death wish who has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture references to make inappropriate quips in harrowing situations. In other words, he's Seth MacFarlane with a pilot's license. Copley doesn't just clown around on camera. He mixes some subtle nuances and a great deal of fun to the character. He does such a great job with the guy that he completely ignores the original TV show and makes it his own, the only way to make it work in any context in my opinion.

In terms of quality, it's loads better than the original TV show. Carnahan knows the source material is cheesy and campy, so he's given a lot of breathing room for error. The plots and schemes range from the ridiculous to the unbelievably absurd so much so that one wonders if the laws of aerodynamics and motion even exist in this alternate movie universe. The dialogue can get corny and catchphrases are squeezed into exchanges that feel like sausage being forced into a kids' party balloon, but it knows when to rely on the TV show's source material and when to back off and rely on its own wits. It's a plan that comes together all on its own.

What did you think of the 'A-Team' movie compared to the TV show?

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It was a fun popcorn flick alright.But I was disappointed with Sharlto Copley's Howling Mad Murdock performance.He couldn't come near Dwight Schultz's manic,fun,portrayal of the role on the classic TV series I felt.

June 17 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I enjoyed it because I wasn't expecting anything more than what I got.

I knew about the tank parachuting ride from the trailer so that didn't ruin it for me or anything and there were some decently funny lines (mainly delivered from the main villain).

Plus, yesterday I saw an episode of the tv show titled "Taxi cab wars" and it was one of the worst episodes of the A-team I can remember seeing so I think that made me feel even better about the movie.

Definitely a good summer popcorn flick that doesn't try to be more than a summer popcorn flick.

June 17 2010 at 7:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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