It seems we are awash in '80s nostalgia. We went to the movies the other night and had a choice of "The Karate Kid" or "The A-Team." (We chose "The A-Team" — who on God's Green Earth thought it was appropriate to make the "The Karate Kid" two hours and 20 minutes?).
Anyway, they showed a trailer for "The Expendables" — a movie that seems to include nearly every schlocky icon from my high school years: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis...along with more recent stars Jet Li and Jason Statham. (Jean-Claude Van Damme, call your agent.)
Do 15-year-olds care about these guys? Did they ever have to watch a bad VHS dub of "Commando" 17 times because they didn't have cable? I wonder what the appeal is for the younger set.
I guess you could say the same about the "A-Team" movie. The good news is, it actually wasn't bad. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I think our standards as a culture are getting higher. The "A-Team" film, despite being inherently derivative, was better written, better plotted and better acted than pretty much any episode of the original series.
In this version, the crew shares the same names and personalities as the original team, but they're Army Ranger veterans from the Iraq War. The prologue shows how they met during a covert operation in Mexico. It was a bit disturbing that the movie treated Mexico as a hostile nation — especially because the opening sequence was supposed to take place eight years ago, before the recent intensification of the drug wars. Have a little more respect for a NAFTA member, folks.
Liam Neeson was great as Hannibal, even if he wasn't allowed to say "Release the Kraken." It occured to me halfway through the movie that every one of Neeson's lines could have been recited by Jane Lynch without seeming out of place at all.
Naturally, the team gets caught up in an evil conspiracy and framed for a crime they didn't commit. That forces them to break out of jail to clear their names. There's also a weird subplot in which B.A. Barcus (originally played by Mr. T) becomes a pacifist and has to learn to kill again. Yes, that's his character arc. But maybe this is yet another homage to the 1980s, because the exact same thing happens in 1988's "Die Hard" to Reginald VelJohnson (the guy who played the dad in "Family Matters").
The trick with making these movies is learning to wrap things up before you've spent all of your audience's goodwill. "The A-Team" manages to do it, barely. It's hard to imagine the new "Karate Kid" pulled that off.
BuboBlog rating: 3 asterisks (out of 4).