Friday, June 11, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

It's a big box office weekend for the 1980s as two prominent properties square off for your nostalgic lust. Before you pay out of pocket to revisit the past, be prepared for one thing: you'll need to divorce yourself from the memories and affections you had for both franchises.

The A-Team
For a sloppy, ham-fisted action film, "The A-Team" is a mediocre movie with a mess in several regards (plot, choreography, direction). As a big screen adaptation of a popular TV show, it's a despicable pillaging and stereotyping of an iconic program. After watching the film, I approached it from two angles: big screen adaptation and blockbuster summer flick. Thoroughly, it failed on both fronts.

Over the course of a television series, characters develop personalities beyond what was originally recognizable to separate all of the actors. For a two hour film, however, the essences of the original A-Team were boiled down, stripped away, and given generic, staid traits that only hint at the series. Instead of being developed with a resourceful Hannibal (while being charismatic to boot), goofy yet misunderstood Murdoch (and endearingly so), hard-nosed B.A. Baracus (but a compassionate man just the same), and the charming Face (a Casanova if there ever were one). Each character undergoes a revamp and only certainly traits remain and are amplified to satisfy a hungry (albeit simpleton) summer audience: Hannibal always has a plan, Murdoch is crazy, B.A. is a badass (unless he's without his mo-hawk), and Face is a womanizer.

The plot for the film encompasses an origin of sorts. It reveals how the group came together, completed impossible mission after impossible mission, and eventually found themselves double-crossed and as escaped convicts. The plot is generic, following the A-Team through Baghdad in pursuit of US currency plates before they fall into the wrong hands. The team is soon outwitted and accused of treason with no hope of redemption.

Cue the explosions and reality defying escapes! The action sequences border on the boring. Fight scenes are so poorly shot and executed that the muddled editing drove me crazy. There were times I could not even look at the screen because it was becoming a jumbled mess. It's a frustrating movie-going experience, and a disappointing one at that. Skip it.

This remake takes indulgence to a whole new level. Will Smith produced the film so his son, Jaden, could play a star-making role. While the young Smith delivers an engaging performance, the film is two hours and 20 minutes of montages, overriding musical score, and cliched storytelling (aside from the fact that it's a remake).

Jaden plays Dre Parker, a recent transplant from Detroit to China, and studies kung fu instead of karate. In spite of the original script, 12 year-old Jaden develops a crush on a classmate and certain montages depict the blossoming relationship. I've never felt more uncomfortable than when watching two kids kiss each other knowing full well it should be Ralph Macchio and Elizabeth Shue instead.

"The Karate Kid" isn't a terrible film. It just lacks the depth the original possessed. Jaden Smith has the ability to be a fine young actor, but his involvement seems forced and incongruous with the original concept for the film. Had it lost the the romantic interest slant and shaved 40 or so minutes from the running time, I wouldn't be thinking I should have seen Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage instead. Skip it.

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