Film and TV

The A-Team: A Plan That Didn't Quite Come Together

Besides doing super-fun married stuff like yard work, going to Costco, and leaving the bathroom door open, New Times writers Laura Hahnefeld and Jay Bennett go to the movies.

Laura: So you watched the A-Team TV show and saw Karate Kid when you were a kid. Did we make the right choice in which '80s rehash to see this weekend?

Jay: Yeah, not much of a choice, huh? It's been a pretty bad summer for Hollywood movies already -- weak sequels, video-game tie-ins, and Gen X-era retreads galore. Well, The A-Team wasn't a complete failure, but it sure seemed completely unnecessary. I think there was a good action/comedy hiding in this movie somewhere, but director Joe Carnahan took the easy way out: Just blow up as much shit as possible and hope no one in the audience thinks too much about the convoluted, plausibility-stretching storyline (I think the plot had something to do with counterfeiting money, but I stopped caring about that midway through this overlong movie). But at least you discovered a new crush, right?

Laura: (sigh) Yeah, Bradley Cooper as Lieutenant Templeton "Face" Peck. He puts the A in A-Team. Dude is a dreamy distraction, that's for sure. My annoyance at trying to figure out what the hell was going on -- or how several of the film's scenes made zero sense -- completely melted away when he flashed that devilish smile. Or bare chest. Or both. Preferably both. At any rate, the casting was good -- believable -- which I think made for a better movie.

Jay: True, a lesser cast would've sunk this movie. Only Quinton "Rampage" Jackson didn't quite hit the mark in the B.A. Baracus role made famous by Mr. T. The real-life ultimate fighter played it too straight (his crisis-of-conscience subplot was pointless) for my taste. But, you're right, Cooper was born to play the smarmy pretty boy Face. Liam Neeson was good, as he usually is, and lent some much-needed credibility in the role Colonel Hannibal Smith, the smarter-than-everybody-else leader of the disgraced band of former Army Rangers. And Sharlto Copley, the guy from District 9, wisely didn't try to upstage his co-stars as the insane pilot Murdock. I would've liked to seen this group of good actors, you know, act instead of just shout a lot and mug for the camera. But maybe I'm asking too much from a big-budget destruction-fest. Speaking of which, what did you think of the action setpieces in The A-Team?

Laura: Apart from my new drinking game idea of taking a shot every time window glass is exploded or shot at, I thought for the most part they were solid. Solid, that is, if you could accept them as action scenes and not try to make any sense of them. Like when the A-Team fell out of an airplane in an army tank, shot its gun in free fall in order to "fly the tank," engaged in a dogfight with two drone fighter jets, and then, still inside it, plunged into a lake, only to emerge, not only alive, but dry. Fun to watch? Yes. Believable? No. The best action scenes were those in which "the plan" was intercut with the execution of the plan. At best, the action served to diminish the terrible script. "Loyalty doesn't fit in an overhead bin"? What the hell does that even mean?

Jay: The A-Team TV series made no bones about how silly the invented-on-the-fly life-saving weapons and other contraptions were. The show reveled in its hokey-ness. The movie took itself too seriously in that respect. I'm willing to accept cartoon action, but not when the filmmakers want the audience to take its computer-generated cartoon action seriously, as if it were one of the Bourne movies or the more-recent James Bond films or, hell, even the Christian Bale-era Batman movies. Note that those movies ratcheted up the excitement and sense of peril with excellent stunt work. The A-Team's overuse of often-sloppy CGI sucked the implied danger out of its action scenes.

All in all, The A-Team, overstuffed though it was, was a little better than I anticipated, mostly thanks to an energetic cast that seems to be in on the joke, even if the people behind the camera weren't. I'll give it a B-. What are your final impressions, Ms. I'm-in-Love-with-Bradley-Cooper?

Laura: The same, my jealous husband. What do you say we re-enact that Bradley Cooper/Jessica Biel kiss?

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett