Another day, another remake. Another safe choice during apparently rocky times - this wintry economic climate, don't you know - and we're off and watching Joe Carnahan's big-screen version of the A-Team. In 2010.
Well now because any time previous, in the late 80's after the TV series ended in 1986 or in the two decades following, an A-Team movie would have been a sad thing, a pitiable thing, a ridiculous idea, as people in the late 80's or in the two decades following would remember the thing about the A-Team show, the thing being that it was ridiculous, and often terrible, and a pitiable thing itself. Time heals all wounds, and makes bad jokes funny.
Now though it, like G.I. Joe and Marmaduke and Miami Vice and Charlie's Angels and Dukes of Hazzard and Clash of the Titans retains only the rosy glow of nostalgia. We can smilingly sing the brassy theme music - daah dah dah, dun duun dun - and recall B.A.'s catchphrases and fear of flying and mohawk and that Face was something of a scoundrel and the cigar and the van but we've forgotten things like the episode where they accidentally hire Boy George to play at a rough and tumble oil pipeline country and western bar and then have trouble 'n' such. Time carves away those bad bits and leaves a false memory, a goofy ideal, ripe for resurrection.
The good news is Carnahan's remake makes the most of those well-trod, resilient bits of remembered corniness. Face (Bradley Cooper) is a scoundrel non-pareil; B.A. Baracus (Quentin "Rampage" Jackson) is a volatile crusher so unmanned by the thought of flight with the manic Murdock (Sharlto Copley) that he must be repeatedly tricked, drugged and heaved onto the plane, whereafter the smiling, smoking Hannibal (Liam Neeson) must distract and bribe him with food. There's none of it surprising, but that they're there at all, these little character-jokes and quirks, is enough to recommend the film despite its howling macho idiocy. That's how low the bar has been moved. That's how little the money folks think of us action movie fans, as they crank out retread after sequel after prequel after reboot after reimagining after remake. That's how bad things have gotten. I like the A-Team movie because the people in it smile and don't do cool slow-motion stylish gun-shooting. Seriously.
The characters in the A-Team movie seem happy, most of the time. Their jokes are creaky and I've heard them all before (in 1983) but they seem to be having fun blowing things up, which is more than can be said for most of the dour goings-on in comparable action films of late. The second Transformers movie, the fourth Terminator movie, this year's A-Team clone The Losers or even Ridley Scott's (A-Team co-producer) own Robin Hood: they all evince a weird need to be slick, stylish and frowny-faced, to let their characters suck as little joy as possible from their stories.
The A-Team might be shallow and loud and old and hackneyed and more than a little misogynist and freighted down with ridiculous "serious" sub-plots, but it at least cracks jokes.
Its characters, over-familiar and goofy, are interesting if not compelling, and the story moves and changes according to their choices like a story should (mostly). Some child, somewhere, could see a thing in Face, or in Murdock or B.A. or Hannibal that they might, being a child, want to emulate, to aspire to be, which is a bit of cheap magic that nonetheless lifts this whole creaking TV remake pile a little bit above the tide. 6/10