Everyone has their own guilty pleasure movies. Movies that, deep down, you know are terrible. That offer nothing of artistic merit. That the rest of the world think are total rubbish. And yet, you love them. Its hard to describe why you love them – maybe it was just the circumstances you saw them in or something about the film just clicked for you. One of the easiest ways for a movie to land in the guilty pleasures pile is nostalgia. If a movie can provide that sweet nostalgia kick, you can forgive a lot of things that it does wrong. Of course, this can be a double edged sword – get it wrong and you quickly lose the audience as they watch their childhood go up in flames. And its tricky to get right, how much do you update the basic concepts vs how closely do you follow the original? Well I’m happy to report that the latest nostalgia filled movie: The A-Team, hits dead on the sweet spot.

The opening pre-credits sequence introduces the core four and the quirks that define them. Many such films of this nature would spend the entire movie introducing the basic dynamic between the characters – think Starsky & Hutch {2004 Dir. Todd Phillips} as a classic origin story example. Here, however, immediately after the start, the film jumps forward “8 years and 80 missions” later. It’s a great move as it shows the A-Team as a fully formed, working unit but still gets the play the set-up card since they have to be sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit and promptly escape. This section covers the first half of the film, while the remainder is spent trying to clear their names and get back at those who double crossed them.

The movie is loud, extremely stupid and brilliant. Within 5 minutes of the opening I had a big goofy grin on my face. Within 15 minutes I was laughing hysterically. I alternated between the two for the entire running time. Amazingly, the script is a standout – the banter between the A-Team is fantastic, providing a real feeling of camaraderie. Even more surprisingly, all the incidental characters exchange smart, funny dialogue. Not a moment of the film drags because there’s always someone saying something interesting or witty. Sure the story may be going through the motions – it’s as predicable as any of the TV episodes, I suspect deliberately so, but even the painful plot exposition sequences are handled with lashings of humour.

The core team are all well cast. Liam Neeson has just the right amount of tongue in cheek as team leader Colonel Hannibal Smith. He might be getting a bit old for some of the actions sequences, but he cuts a believable military leader. Having said that however, talented as he is, even Neeson can’t make Hannibal’s catchphrase naturalistic. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson has possibly the most difficult job, trying to replace Mr T as B.A. Baracus. It’s a hit and miss performance; Jackson (an MMA fighter by trade) handles the physicality well enough but he’s no actor, which is apparent during some of the few quiet scenes in the film. Still, it would be unfair to label him a weak link as most of the time he’s solid enough. Bradley Cooper takes the role of Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck, but in truth he might be playing both Face and B.A. – He is huge, and clearly under instruction to take his shirt off as often as possible. A desperate attempt to appeal to female audiences perhaps, as there is little else that might interest them here.

The standout of the film is Sharlto Copley – the star of District 9 {2009 Dir. Neill Blomkamp} simply IS Captain H. M. ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock. Providing just the right level of craziness, a number of sequences seem to have been specifically written to take advantage of his South African heritage. Yet they don’t feel forced, and he knocks each one out of the park. Obviously, the rest of the cast are not going to be filled with A-listers, but Patrick Wilson (slimmed down since his role as Dan Dreiberg in 2009’s Watchmen {Dir. Zack Snyder}) is suitably slimy as a C.I.A suit, while Brian Bloom has a couple of wonderful scenes as a private military contractor. Jessica Biel is cast as the token girl – literally, she might be the only woman in the film with a speaking part. She’s playing the role of Decker (although renamed to Charissa Sosa); charged with hunting down the A-team, but is given almost nothing of note to do apart from look pretty. It’s a miracle she’s not either strip searched or forced into a bikini at any point in the film.

A lot of shaky cam impacts all of the mano-a-mano fight scenes. Whether this is a stylistic choice or simply to mask bad fight choreography, only the director truly knows. But it’s here in abundance and it is not well executed. Fortunately the other action sequences are much clearer to see, and they are all crazy. The trailers featured the tank-parachute combination which is the highlight, but there’s still a fair few other madcap stunts which defy all the laws of gravity, physics and common sense. At one point one of the characters claims that “Overkill is underrated” – obviously this line was written by the director and stunt team, as it could be the motto of the movie.

The A-Team will not be for everyone. Its incredibly shallow, incredibly stupid and almost completely ignorant of the existence of women, at least as anything other than objects. And yet, it is so brash, so entertaining and captures the spirit of the original TV show so perfectly that it’s easily one of my favourite movies of the summer, and could become a real guilty pleasure for the ages. You need to ask yourself this: does the following exchange make you smile? “Are they trying to shoot down the other drone? No, they’re trying to land that tank.” If the answer is yes, run, don’t walk, to your nearest showing of the A-Team.

JIM