Thursday, December 16, 2010
“It is what it is.” There exists no phrase, which more aptly describes both the A-Team film that was released in the summer of 2010 and the 1980s television series upon which it is based. It simply is what it is (how could it be anything different?) and you’re either onboard the train or you remain hopelessly tied to the tracks, waiting to be run over by a locomotive of awesomeness.
You know the story, right? An elite team of Army Rangers is convicted by a military court for a crime they did not commit and they promptly escape to become soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, blah, blah, blah. The film version of the A-Team updates the story to the Gulf War and actually shows us not only how the team was formed, but that ill-fated black ops mission that led to their dishonorable discharges. The characters are familiar, the tone is tongue-in-cheek and the action is so over the top, they actually had to construct a new top, which was subsequently obliterated during filming. Seriously, folks… they barrel roll a helicopter.
As a child of the ‘80s, I find myself unable to avoid comparisons to the television series upon which the film is based. Like many of you, I am of a generation that grew up obsessed with the A-Team and like many of you, I have found the show to be somewhat lacking upon revisitation. It’s formulaic, it’s cliché and oftentimes, it’s downright stupid. But damn if it isn’t badass! The movie follows a similar path but manages to “turn it up to eleven”, as they say… or at least, it "tries" to, but it ends up blowing the speakers out and has to find an alternate power source. It’s just that awesome.
Here’s the thing: this is a movie that doesn’t just feature one-dimensional, cliché characters and situations; it revels in them. It fully embraces the fun of the television series and amps it up to big screen proportions. Face (Bradley Cooper) is the ultimate smooth-talking ladies man. Murdock (Sharlto Copley) is certifiably insane and played for laughs in a manner quite similar to the original series. B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson) is beyond badass and Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) is the man with the plan and damn if he doesn’t love it when that plan comes together. These guys are proficient in all manner of weaponry, subterfuge and building tanks out of stuff they found in a scrap yard. They’re the baddest of the bad and they even make rottweilers whimper and cry.
Adding to the excitement is the fact that the characters in the movie seem just as thrilled to be taking part in the escapades as I was to watch them. Whenever something amazing happens, such as the aforementioned helicopter barrel roll or attempting to steer a tank as it plummets from the wreckage of an airplane blown up mid-flight by repeatedly firing the cannon, someone onscreen will actually take time to howl and make reference to how incredibly ridiculous and utterly, unbelievably amazing the situation is. It exists in a very comic book reality where the laws of physics and logic are thrown out the window and everyone speaks with witty banter and continually spout hackneyed (though often inspiring) adages. In short, if you take yourself too seriously, don’t bother. If you like having fun and you enjoyed the old A-Team, why not give the new one a try? I had a smile on my face from the first frame to the last.
The downfalls? Well, Liam Neeson doesn’t seem quite capable of mastering an American accent and the love story between Face and former flame DCIS Captain Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel) is a bit stale. There are a few lousy jokes that’ll make you cringe. But what can you do? It’s a Hollywood flick and it’s gonna have it’s Hollywood moments. The good news is that they’re few and far between and the good more than outweighs the bad in this one. And overall, who really cares? It’s the A-Team. Did you watch the TV series? It ain’t Shakespeare, folks. But it is fun. What’s one really bad joke in a sea of mostly bad jokes?
Oddly enough, the film it reminded me of the most was 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie. Like that film, The A-Team found a way to pay loving homage to the series, which inspired it while gently poking fun at it at the same time. This movie acknowledges its roots and knows exactly what it is and exactly whom it’s aiming at. As the Harley Davidson t-shirt says, “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.”
The Blu-Ray features a healthy dose of extras including an extended cut, which I didn’t bother watching. Sorry, I was so excited that I felt the need to sit down and write this review as quickly as possible as a way to relive the glory of the film. Anyway, the extended cut has about 30 minutes of extra footage that I assume isn’t necessarily any more violent or risque, but was simply cut for time constraints. It’s a two-hour movie – it really didn’t need to be any longer. I promise I’ll watch it tomorrow and besides, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably going to buy it anyway.
There’s also a nifty feature called “The Devil’s In the Details” which allows you to watch the film with commentary from director Joe Carnahan detailing the weaponry used by the team as well as behind-the-scenes info on how the special effects were created. There are little character bios and a gag reel and even montage of highlights from the film set to the original A-Team theme song. It’s like watching the opening credits to the TV show you wish actually existed. Now that’s pretty awesome!
It was apparent watching this film that Joe Carnahan had a plan to capture the true spirit and essence of the A-Team series. To make a movie that wasn’t simply a film version of an old TV show, but a chronicle of your childhood memories of the A-Team. It’s got all the explosions, the tank building, the camaraderie and the humor of the original series and then some. Joe Carnahan had a plan, and I love the fact that his plan came together.
Okay… so that was a little forced, but can you blame me? I had to work it in there somewhere.
Article first published as Blu-Ray Review: The A-Team on Blogcritics.