I just got back from seeing "The A-Team", I movie I wanted to be good but fully expected would be disappointing, if not outright bad. Well, fortunately for me, I was wrong. "The A-Team" was a thoroughly enjoyable comedic action movie with enough callbacks to the original TV series to appeal to those fans and enough twists, turns and explosive scenes to appeal to those who've never seen a single episode.
The plot of the movie is more "A-Team: Origins" than something that would have served as an episode of the original series (though once you got into the nitty gritty, the formula felt comfortably familiar). The opening scene sets up the formation of the team and takes the viewer through their first unofficial mission. The movie then jumps eight years into the future, for what's supposed to be their last mission -- the one that goes wrong and leads to their dishonorable discharge. They then have to escape from prison and work together to clear their names.
The story is a modernized version of the original A-Team origin (which involved a bank robbery and a murdered superior officer), and is well-crafted despite some over-the-top characterizations. Save for one character, it's pretty easy to tell who the good guys and the bad guys are the first time you meet them, even though the story tries to hinge on deception.
But plot isn't what made "The A-Team" great in the '80s (the show ran for 98 episodes and regularly recycled entire stories), and it's not why you're going to see the movie now. It's characters and action. Without giving too much away, I can say the action is great, if not a little unbelievable (in particular, the parachuting tank scene -- seen briefly in the trailer -- is insanely over-the-top, which kinda makes it awesome).
Three of the four main characters are played incredibly well. Liam Neeson puts his own mark on Hannibal Smith, and is entirely believable as a leader who really only wants to do what's right. Bradley Cooper might have been the perfect choice for Face, even if at times it seems a little like he's just reprising his character from "The Hangover" in a different setting. The real scene stealer is Sharlto Copley (from "District 9") as Howling Mad Murdock. He seems to be having fun with the role at all times, and captures the essence of who Murdock should be, without being just an imitation of Dwight Schultz (Towson alum! Go Tigers!).
The same cannot be said for Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. To be fair, the other three are trained actors, and it shows, as throughout the movie, they play characters. Jackson is an MMA fighter with no real acting experience, and the entire time it feels less like he's playing B.A. Baracus and more like he's mimicking Mr. T. In some cases, that's not entirely a bad thing (he definitely captures Mr. T's ability to say the word "fool" like it's the worst insult you could ever throw at someone), but it just feels out of place.
Also feeling out of place was the entire love story between Face and Jessica Biel's Sosa. Now, I love Jessica Biel, but I never felt like she had a real place in this movie, and her presence was really just a distraction. Yes, I know that in the original series, there was often a female involved with the mission that ended up being a romantic interest for Face, but in this case giving them a whole back story and making Biel so involved really bothered me. In particular, one scene between Cooper and Biel just before a major action/plot point drastically slowed down the pacing.
If I had to give the movie a score on a scale of 1-10 (1 being "Glitter", 10 being "The Dark Knight"), I'd put it somewhere between a 6 and a 7. It definitely made me laugh, and there were moments when I was completely caught up in the action -- particularly when they interspersed the action itself with Hannibal explaining the plan. Plus, the way it ended it's completely set up for a sequel or a spinoff TV series, and I'd totally be in for that.