A group of Special Forces soldiers are set up for a crime they did not commit and must work outside the law to clear their names in The A-Team, a big sloppy puppy of a movie that can be boisterous and funny and cheerfully licks your face but also pees on your carpet and eats your car keys.
Were the movie Marmaduke not just made, you might almost be able to say this is the Marmaduke of movies — too much to handle even if it occasionally makes you smile. (Those traits are ascribed to the dog, but don’t ever apply to that cartoon itself or to the movie — so I guess there’s where the comparison falls apart.)
Wise-cracking pretty boy Faceman Peck (Bradley Cooper), fool-pitying van driver B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), crazy nutter pilot Murdock (Sharlto Copley) and brains-of-the-operation commanding officer Hannibal (Liam Neeson) meet-cute during a mission involving luring a drug kingpin and his hot wife into American airspace. Years later, this team has forged a bond, despite varying levels of insanity, and is the go-to squad when the military has a delicate matter it needs handled.
Stealing back counterfeiting plates from the Iraqis, for example. But the A-Team isn’t the only one given this task. A team of for-hire military contractors run by a little tyrant named Pike (Brian Bloom) has also been sent for the plates (which give their possessor the ability to make millions in counterfeit U.S. money). When the operation goes wrong, the A-Team is accused of trying to steal the plates themselves. Naturally, Hannibal has a plan to prove their innocence: step 1, prison break. Luckily, or something, the officer sent to bring them back is Charisa Sousa (Jessica Biel), Face’s former girlfriend. (Perhaps a feeble description but Biel is one of the movie’s key enfeebling elements.)
I’m not sure if “too loud” is a valid criticism of an entire film, but if I had to pick one central problem with the movie, that would be it. Visually, thematically, and, sure, aurally, The A-Team is loud — yelling at you from all over the place, with crazy choppy action sequences, with a story that has Action! plus Romance! no, make that more Comedy!, but really all in service of Action!, with giant sense-overwhelming explosions that seem unconnected to the way things actually catch fire. It isn’t a bad movie but it would be a better movie if you could follow a scene of fighting and explosion-facilitated escape from beginning to end, and know who’s doing what at all times. (And don’t try to tell me it’s ironically too loud — I can’t ironically pay $4 less for a ticket.)
I found myself getting into the story and its quip-quip-explosion rhythm but then some bit of randomness, often involving Jessica Biel, would come flying toward me and by the time the confusion had settled I’d lost another 15 percent of my interest in what was happening on screen.
Like so much I’ve seen recently, The A-Team is not that bad — it has its moments. But it’s not that good either. And it’s not some collection of fond memories of the TV show that’s holding me back. My memories are vague and quite possibly limited to the show’s opening credits. (But this isn’t some Sex and the City coda; it needs to stand on its own. I don’t think that having worn a Mr. T costume for Halloween or never having seen the show will change your experience with this movie one way or another.) This movie is a tasty bowl of pudding that never gels, a sweet-berry pie that never thoroughly bakes. C+
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking. Directed by Joe Carnahan and written by Carnahan, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods (from the TV show by Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell), The A-Team is an hour and 57 minutes long and distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox.