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No plan B for the A-Team movie

I love it when a plan comes together. But whoever it was that gave the green light for the big-screen version of The A-Team, it's obvious that it's not just Hannibal who's on the run.

At least from good sense. For those of you who were fugitives during the '80s for a crime you didn't commit, The A-Team TV series ran for five seasons from 1983, and featured soldiers-turned-mercenaries Hannibal Smith (George Peppard), BA Baracus (Mr T), Faceman Peck (Dirk Benedict) and Howling Mad Murdock (Dwight Schultz).

In essence, every week this happened: poor people somewhere around the world were tyrannised, Hannibal devised a wacky plan, BA got drugged and dragged on to a plane, Murdock made with the loony eyes and Face gurned for the ladies. The A-Team blew up the bad guys, no one got hurt, and Hannibal got to say: "I love it when a plan comes together." The end.

But Hollywood waits for no man. The big screen version, starring Liam Neeson as Hannibal and The Hangover's Bradley Cooper as Face, will be exploding on to a screen near you from July 30. The big question, of course, is why?

Hollywood is lazy, and a proven winner on the TV screens is fair game for celluloid treatment. But there was a time when it worked the other way around. A big movie success, M*A*S*H, say, would get its TV series spin-off.

It wasn't always the case that the TV series was in tune with the movie The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams, for example, had little in common with Jeremiah Johnson apart from the central character being a fur-trapper who lived in the mountains -- but at least there was the sense that Hollywood was leading the way.

Of course, it's on TV that the dreams are being woven these days. Series such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men and The West Wing offer depth that Hollywood simply can't match in a 90-minute movie.

TV viewing habits have changed, too. We no longer have to watch a programme when it is originally broadcast. We can record a series of shows without hassle on digital TV or just buy a box-set and wallow for hours in the comfort of our own homes. Try asking someone to sit in a cinema for six hours of movie and you'll get a fistful of popcorn where the sun don't shine.

That said, The A-Team was no Sopranos. It was a smash success precisely because, at a time when the US was engaged in mini-invasions of places such as Grenada, the programme had nothing to say about war and politics beyond: "Yes, poor people, we're Americans and we don't belong here, but we're actually the good guys."

Maybe that's why The A-Team got the green light for the big screen. Now that America is bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hollywood is hoping that punters will buy into the idea that America is riding to the rescue of oppressed people, and that no one is getting hurt despite all the explosions . . .

To be fair, The A-Team movie isn't that bad. Given that the TV series was a big, dumb slice of hokum, the movie lives up to expectations. Had it been made in 1982 when the TV series had huge audiences, it might even be forgiven for being what it is. But 30 years on, The A-Team still has nothing to say. The movie could be the pilot for the original TV series. Hannibal still makes stale quips, the bickering is as pointless as ever, and the explosions are still full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Hell, it doesn't even try to say that war is hell.

Does anyone get hurt? Well, apart from the dent inflicted on your brain and your wallet, there's no real damage done.

The trouble is, there's a vast number of schlocky TV shows just waiting to be spun into Hollywood brass. Does anyone think Murder She Wrote starring Jessica Biel might fly? I'm with BA on this one. I'm not getting on that damn plane.

The A-team opens on July 30


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