June 11, 2010, - 11:50 am
Two remakes of ’80s stuff at the box office, this weekend. Hey, Hollywood, come up with something new.
* “The A-Team“: No, it’s not a great movie, and yes, the story is convoluted and silly. But what did you expect? It’s “The A-Team.” If you watched the stupid, campy 1980’s show, you know that the show wasn’t all that great. The movie lives up to the show and is an apt 2010 update.
And, even though, as plots and story lines go, there’s not much here, it’s entertaining for the reason you go to see a movie like this: lots of explosions, special effects, action, and excitement, ranging from the preposterous to the mega-super-on-steroids-over-the-top stuff. That includes a flying tank (with the use of parachutes) from which the A-Team members start shooting at the enemy as they fly through the sky. I enjoyed watching the pyrotechnics, even though–despite all the action–the movie seemed a little long. Too long.
The “story”: An alignment of the stars allows four men–Army Rangers–to meet in Mexico, save one of their lives, and then all escape from a military hospital. The fearless leader, played by Liam Neeson, plays tribute to the original George Peppard role by smoking cigars. And there’s a Mr. T look-alike with hand tattoos that say, “P-I-T-Y” and “F-O-O-L.” Other than that, the old “A-Team” theme music from the TV shows is played, and re-played, and played again.
Another similarity with the TV show: the four men are framed for a crime they did not commit: they are enlisted by a military commander in Iraq to find “plates” used to make forged American money and once owned by Saddam Hussein. But then they are falsely accused in his murder, sent to jail, and the rest of the movie is spent trying to prove their innocence, catch the real villain, and avoid the scrutiny of a military official, Jessica Biel.
I could have done without the shots of Bradley Cooper and others wearing keffiyehs. Enough with the scarves of Islamic hate. And the Iraq storyline seems a little dated. Plus, the defamation of Blackwater–the evil villains are from “Black Forest”–is annoying and old, too. But otherwise, it was better than I expected, but not a tight movie by any stretch. Like I said, this is about watching pyrotechnics and action. Nothing else.
Mr. T, himself, declined a cameo in the movie, saying it has too much sex and violence. But there is no sex in the movie, and the violence–compared to many movies out there, today–is minimal. Yes, there’s a lot of shooting and killing, but it’s bloodless and you don’t see too many bodies. Plus, they’re bodies of bad guys.
If you liked “The A-Team” TV show, you’ll probably like this. If you hated that, you might still find this amusing, but not likely. While I was not a fan of the TV series, I liked this for what it was: an action-packed break and escape.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Karate Kid“: This should have been called “The Kung Fu Kid,” because there is no karate in it. And while it follows the storyline of the original Ralph Macchio/Billy Zabka/Pat Morita ’80s movie, it’s not even close to the quality.
The biggest problem is that the main character, Dre, played by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, is only twelve years old. (Since his parents produced the movie, I wonder how he got the job. Like my friend movie critic and comedian Corey Hall says, we’re supposed to care because he came out of a famous vagina.) The original made more sense, as the kids were late teens in high school. It’s hard to believe a short, skinny runt of a 12-year-old doing jabs and kicks to blow away every taller, bigger Chinese kid. Rather than aim the movie at teens, as the original was aimed at my crowd when I was in high school, this one is aimed at younger kids. And the kids and parents in the audience at the screening I attended connected with it, clapping at the end of the movie.
While it was rewarding to watch a tiny American kid kick the butts of Chi-Com after Chi-Com at the end of the movie, most objectionable is that the movie–which the Smiths co-produced with the Chinese government–makes China look like the most fun, repression-free place in which to live and grow up. Chairman Mao pictures are, you know, just photos of a former world leader. There is no real view of life in the country that is home to the Tiananmen Square killings and severe restrictions on speech and expression.
I wondered, too, why a lot of the actors are visibly Korean, including Dre’s love interest. Asians always get upset when we confuse their nationalities. And yet, they do it to us time after time, with Koreans and Chinese playing Japanese and vice versa, and every combination thereof–in many recent movies I’ve seen.
The story: A young kid, Dre, moves with his widowed mother (Taraji P. Henson) to China from depressed Detroit, where the auto plant where she works closed. She’s been transferred to a job at the new Chinese car factory, which is a first mostly unheard of here in Detroit. In China, Dre becomes disenchanted with life as he is bullied by local kids and classmates. He falls for a female classmate, and the native Chinese are jealous and beat him up for it. He also befriends another American expatriate, the token blonde White kid, who disappears for most of the rest of the movie.
The maintenance man (Jackie Chan) at his mother’s apartment building stops the Chinese classmates in the middle of a fight, in which they are beating Dre up. Soon, he’s Dre’s father figure, teaching him Kung Fu, in preparation for a tournament fighting the kids who bullied him, and taking him on field trips to the Chinese countryside. But there is no “Wax on, wax off” in this movie. Instead, it’s the more lackluster, “Put your jacket on, take it off, pick it up, hang it up.” Not as catchy.
Still, the real star of this movie–the actor who really shines–is Jackie Chan, in one of his first–if not the first–dramatic English speaking roles. He’s really good. No Mr. Miyagi. But as Mr. Han, the name of his incarnation of the Pat Morita character, he’s pretty close. His fighting scene with the bully kids is fantastic–fun to watch.
One thing I thought the movie glossed over–and probably because this is a kids’ movie, plus it’s part Chi-Com propaganda–is that, in real life, there is a lot of racism against Black people in China and other Asian countries. I doubt Chinese parents would let their girl date a Black kid, as happens in this movie. That never gets touched here.
This is fine for little kids and younger teens, who, again, are its intended audience–there’s no sex and the violence is kung fu with a message. But it’s no “Karate Kid,” which I suggest you rent and show those same kids when they get a little older. Also, at nearly 2.5 hours, it’s a little long and could have been made tighter.
It’s an entertaining and feel-good movie. But, please, tell your kids that, despite what the Smiths and their Chi-Com partners tell you, China is a Communist prison, not a Kung Fu paradise.
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: A-Team, Black Forest, Blackwater, Bradley Cooper, Chi-Coms, China, Chinese government, Dre, Dre Parker, Jackie Chan, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith, Jessica Biel, Karate Kid, keffiyeh, Liam Neeson, movie, Movie Reviews, Mr. T, Taraji P. Henson, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Will Smith