I’m anxious to say too many good things about The A-Team since one of the main contributors to my enjoyment of it was my subterranean low expectations. Originally, seeing who was signed onto the cast raised hopes that this would be redeemable. I mean, you’ve got Liam Neeson and Sharlto Copley (who was mind-numbingly incredible in District 9. If those two were involved, how could it be bad? Then I saw Clash Of The Titans and realized just how bad of a movie Neeson was willing to get involved with. Then there was the whole debacle with Quinton Jackson’s maybe-phobic anti-acting rant. Then you have to factor in a trailer involving a parachuting tank. Sufficed to say, hope gave way to the reluctant knowledge that I was still probably going to see it. So, expecting a movie as bad as Transporter 3, my chuckles and eventual outright laughter felt all that much sweeter.
Sure, the movie is mind-bogglingly dumb, but it’s given a transparent gloss of cleverness that makes it easier to pretend it’s more logical than it is, as well as lets you know not to take it seriously in the first place. In fact, some of the best moments of the film have to do with with this ridiculous self-consciousness. When the tank-parachute is happening, the characters acknowledge how absurd their situation is, creating the best lines. No one’s pretending this is art. It’s fluff. Funny, explodey fluff, that gives you a little more than you’d think a TV-to-film adaptation was capable of.
Before I get to the really critical part, I want to touch briefly on the actors. First, Liam Neeson capably plays the fatherly emotional and moral centre of the group. Bradley Cooper plays Bradley Cooper, as we know him, a womanizing charmer, although a touch less woodenly than we’re used to. Sharlto Copley plays mentally unstable Murdoch, with enough conviction that you sometimes wonder if they just took away Copley’s Ritalin and let the cameras roll. Quinton Jackson gets the job done, although some work with a dialogue coach might have helped with all the mumbling. Outside of the A-Team itself, there’s Jessica Biel, who after seeing this, I think I’m starting to understand the fuss about. And then there’s the film’s villains, Brian Bloom and Patrick Wilson, who unassumingly walk away with the show. Wilson especially takes to his role with a relish, seemingly enjoying every single second that he is on screen.
Now, even though the best way to enjoy the movie is with your brain sitting in idle, there were two things that I just couldn’t ignore.
1) The A-Team asks that you find comedy in mental illness. Murdoch’s insanity (and that of his fellow inmates) is played up for laughs that don’t really consider their source. Something about military personel (who are likely in an institution because of post-traumatic stress or similar issues) being put in funny hats for a cheap laugh just doesn’t sit well.
2) While most of the characters are actually caricatures, this is nowhere moreso than with B.A. Baracus (Jackson). After their initial capture, Baracus finds inner peace in prison, greatly inspired by Gandhi. When he announces his retirement from murder, he is still coaxed into coming along on missions in a minimally violent role. As the movie progresses, the other characters, Hannibal (Neeson) in particular, chip away at his epiphany, throwing seemingly contradictory Gandhi quotes his way. While there’s a narrative satisfaction to be had when Baracus finally does return full-tilt to a life of violence and vengeance, it’s disappointing that such an admirable lifestyle change is treated as an inconvenience by the rest of the team. Throughout the film, Baracus’s phobias and philosophies are treated as jokes by the other characters. It’s sad to see someone trampled over so badly, so when they finally wear him down, it’s disappointing, but not unprecedented. Perhaps a sequel could have Baracus say that he’s finally had enough and will turn against the team. It wouldn’t be undeserved.
So, like I said, if you’re looking for something to keep your eyes busy while you’re wolfing down popcorn, then The A-Team is the way to go. It’s easy entertainment at its easiest, and as long as you plan on being disappointed, you won’t be disappointed.