11 June 2010

The A-Team

Bradley Cooper, left, and Liam Neeson are shown in a scene from "The A-Team."
I remember having an "A-Team" bicycle as a child. I think it was red and black. So I must have watched and enjoyed the TV series that aired from 1983 to 1986 on NBC. Yet aside from Mr. T's Mohawk, I cannot remember a single thing about it.

Hannibal, Faceman, Murdock? Not ringing a bell. The theme music? Nope.

There was no nostalgia factor for me, then, as I watched the big-screen version of "The A-Team" directed by Joe Carnahan ("Narc," "Smokin' Aces"). No memories stirred up, no childlike excitement. Nothing.

I don't know whether that's my fault or the movie's.

Mildly amusing is the best I can say for the film. It's a big, dumb summer action movie indistinguishable from all the rest if you don't have deep fondness for the source material.

Our heroes are four Army Rangers, but in the really real world, they aren't heroic at all. They are framed for a crime and imprisoned. So they break out, regroup and set about clearing their names, paying no mind to the destruction left in their wake. There's no altruistic mission here; they're only looking out for No. 1.

The characters are cartoons and types more than people. Hannibal (Liam Neeson) is the leader, and his defining trait is that he loves "it when a plan comes together." Faceman (Bradley Cooper) is the lothario of the group. Murdock ("District 9's" Sharlto Copley) is the insane (but in a lovable way) pilot. B.A. Baracus (mixed martial artist Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who gives the movie's best performance) is the big, intimidating guy who's deathly afraid of flying.

We also have Lynch (Patrick Wilson), a CIA agent we know is crooked from the first time we see him, and Sosa (Jessica Biel), an investigator from the Defense Department and Faceman's ex.

The action, of course, defies all laws of physics, especially a heist dependent on the use of a bunch of car airbags (apparently no one in Hollywood knows that airbags do not stay inflated indefinitely). Virtually everything on the screen is ridiculous, so you have to view the whole picture as a comedy for it to work at all. And it kind of does work in that way.

Everyone looks like they're having a blast, and it is surprisingly infectious, even as it creates the appearance that the movie was more fun to make than watch.

I cannot bring myself to recommend "The A-Team" to anyone other than fans of the TV show and I do not relish the thought of the inevitable sequels, but it could be worse. It could be "The Losers."

Greg's Grade: C

(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking. 117 minutes.)

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