The American cinema-going public have decided: of the two 80s themed reinventions that were bestowed upon them over one weekend in June, a cheesy looking remake of a solid 80s movie has won out over a solid looking remake of a cheesy 80s TV show.
In the showdown between The Karate Kid and The A-Team, Hannibal et al got their asses handed to them by a twelve-year-old. The A-Team has stalled at $75m (by the last count), while Jaden Smith is high kicking his way to $170m. And he didn’t even have to break out the crane kick.
So, what should we read into this? That The Karate Kid version 2010 is a better film than The A-Team? Hard to say. I’ve seen neither at the time of writing this, and mine will be a biased answer anyway. The prospect of watching a film about a twelve-year-old beating up other twelve-year-olds doesn’t really appeal to me. Fans of the original who are similarly reticent about this skew towards a preteen audience could do worse than watch Never Back Down, a remake in all but name, and which wisely keeps the characters at an age where they don’t have to be in bed by nine.
What those box office figures really confirm is that The A-Team always had, and still does have, a very particular fan base. You can take the whole family to the new The Karate Kid. But The A-Team? A show made by men, about men, for men (and impressionable boys) looks to have been made into a film with the same demographic reach. Or perhaps an even narrower one, appealing mostly to those who grew up on it.
If the trailer’s anything to go by, the film is retaining much of the show’s ridiculousness (although up to a point. I don’t think we’ll see Liam Neeson dressing up as an old Chinese man). Great news for fans of the TV show, but, combined with the lack of bona fide movie stars, it’s proven to be a turn-off for the uninitiated.
All of which brings us to The A-Team: Triple Action Pack, a DVD you’ll love provided (a) you’re a man, (b) like The A-Team, and (c) haven’t already got season two of The A-Team at home. Because the three episodes contained herein are all taken from the show’s second stint.
This plucking of episodes isn’t such a bad idea. The A-Team had no development of any kind over the course of its five season run, so you could watch any episode without need for a second of backstory. It’s all there in the opening voiceover, one of the most iconic setups to a TV show that’s ever been, but also a brilliantly concise one.
And they’re a good clutch of episodes, showcasing the show’s ability to blend comedy, action, construction makeovers and guest parts for rising stars into a breezy 45 minutes.
In The Taxicab Wars, Ernie Hudson’s cab operator needs protecting from Michael Ironside’s nasty (but quite pleasantly named) Love Cab Company. There’s a nice Murdock-talking-to-a-sock-on-his-hand routine and a great ol’ Texan boy disguise from Hannibal. But the episode belongs to Mr. T’s dainty, near balletic, jump over some wrecked garden furniture.
The Maltese Cow sees the team shed their altruistic image. When their favourite restaurant is under threat, the A-Team must do battle with James Hong and Professor Tanaka, while also evading the police (they had to show up some time). I’d always thought theirs was a not-for-profit venture, but here Hannibal is seen as quite the canny accountant. They make out with 25 percent of the restaurant’s back end by the time the credits roll.
Finally, we have Chopping Spree, which gives us Dennis Franz, a used car/chop shop storyline, George Peppard dressing up as Rick Wakeman, and the disc’s only real construction montage. It would be in questionable taste (they refit a hearse with a spring-loaded coffin) if it weren’t so ingenious and impressive.
If you’re wavering over whether there’s enough in here to tempt you, here’s what these three episodes have that will appeal to the A-Team aficionado:
- Cars flipping over in mid-air (after three episodes in a row I feel I could describe in detail the entire underside assembly of every American automobile available in 1984).
- B.A. wearing some natty all-in-one ensembles. Like dungarees, only with more on top.
- Face making out with at least one woman an episode, and without even trying.
- People getting thrown over B.A.’s head, but kind of jumping into it a little bit.
- Guns. Lots and lots of guns. Read as a social statement, The A-Team paints a disturbing picture of the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons in 80s America.
But it also misses a few staples that some may have a hard time living without:
- A plane trip of any kind. B.A. doesn’t have to drink any milk, and no-one sticks him with an injection behind his neck and tells him it was just a fly.
- The Colonel. He’s curiously absent, presumably busy explaining to his superiors how he’s failed to find a gang who drive a van that hardly blends in, and who can be located by any local tradesman asking nicely for help.
- A helicopter or other enemy-manned vehicle crashing into the side of a cliff, exploding in a big ball of flames, and two men gingerly walking out rubbing their heads.
It’s all very cheesy and clunky when watched today, yet it’s still enormous fun. Murdock’s shtick remains the standout, Dwight Shultz’s boundless energy papering over the show’s recycled storylines.
But the beauty of The A-Team is that every one of the four are terrific creations.Dirk Benedict still looks effortlessly cool as Face, Mr. T’s B.A. is as loveably simple as ever (never has one man loved a van so much) and, even though he probably hated most of his time on it, George Peppard lends his movie star charisma to make Hannibal a charmingly arrogant leader who still commands authority when decked out in some ridiculous costumes.
Neeson and the new crew will have their work cut out in the UK. A rematch with Jaden and Jackie beckons, as does the challenge of living up to such illustrious predecessors.
The only bonus feature is a lacklustre text introduction to The A-Team, a fairly pointless few pages that simply point out the obvious. Do we really need an annotated picture pointing out who’s who out of the four? If you’ve seen an episode of the show before there’ll be nothing new in here.
So, is it worth a purchase? Considering you could pick this pack for about £4 if you’re a canny shopper, it’s a fairly good deal for two hours of entertainment. But factor in that the entire second season will set you back no more than £10, and the value for money argument goes out the window.
A nice gift for the A-Team fan who hasn’t the time commitment necessary to make it through an entire season. Beyond that, it feels a little bit redundant.
The A-Team: Triple Action Packis out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.