'The A-Team': Did the PG-13 rating ruin yet another action movie?

Last weekend,  The Kung Fu Karate Kid dominated the box office, while The A-Team pulled in an okay-but-not-sequel-worthy $26 million. I saw A-Team, and kinda enjoyed it (check out Owen Gleiberman’s spot-on review). But I thought there was one glaring problem with the movie: the PG-13 rating. What could have been an enjoyably coarse testosterone-fest felt pruned and bland. The characters were “badass,” but their badassery was utterly inoffensive. If you ask me, the movie’s mediocre box office is just further proof that Hollywood’s craven attempt to make teen-friendly films has practically destroyed a sainted genre: the contemporary action movie.

I understand why Hollywood aims for PG-13 with these big blockbusters. Giving a movie an R rating means that teenagers with lame parents don’t get to see your movie. (Or, more likely, it means that teenagers buy Karate Kid tickets and then sneak into your movie.) And don’t get me wrong. The PG-13 rating makes sense for superhero movies (which are mostly just stealth dramedies hiding underneath a few explosions) and fantasy films (which are mostly set in beautiful worlds without any naughty language.)

But A-Team is a movie about four dudes with guns who drive fast cars and blow things up real good. It’s utterly nonsensical that these guys use swear words about as often as prep-school preschoolers. (Twice, the movie did the trick where a character screams “Motherf-” and then gets cut off by an explosion. Now they’re just teasing us!) Plus, all PG-13 gunfights are essentially bloodless, so every action sequence looks about as threatening as a paintball match. Finally, PG-13 means no sex, which means our protagonists just seem like tough-talking frat boys instead of actual ladies’ men.

What’s missing is the charming, carefree sense of coarse rulebreaking that used to be the action genre’s main appeal. Just consider Tango & Cash, the late ’80s buddy-copper starring Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, which bears a vague plot resemblance to The A-Team. Now, Tango & Cash is not a good movie. But it is a fun movie, and that’s because every scene in the movie basically goes like this:

Cash: “Hey, f—you, Tango!”
Tango: “Go f— yourself, Cash!”
[Pause for gunfight]
Tango: “Hey Cash, good shooting! Now get f—ed!”
Cash: “Tango, you’re a m—–f—ing f—d—!”
[Pause for seductive Teri Hatcher dance sequence]

I’m hopeful that Stallone’s upcoming action-fest The Expendables reminds us what a great R-rated action flick looks like (although right now, the film still isn’t rated: fingers crossed!). [UPDATE: According to Lionsgate, The Expendables is indeed rated R. Lovers of casual F-bombs, rejoice!] What do you think, PopWatchers? Am I silly to think that a few extra swears can make a movie more watchable?

Comments (188 total) Add your comment
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  • You are dumb

    no a bad script ruined it!

    • Joe

      I second that. The script was pretty bad. The only character in this movie that ruined it for me was the Mr. T. replacement, just wasn’t believable enough, but then again Mr T is just so unique. There was only one scene with the infamous van, just way too many other flaws as well that ruined this reboot for me. To the writer of this post, horrible sentence structure!! It’s pretty obvious you failed English back in high school…

      • Kvivik

        Joe, they lost me by casting Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel in this movie. Rampage Jackson was the least of my worries.
        And I am waiting with bated breath for the Expendables. Just looking at the cast of that film makes my mouth water.

    • John

      What a shame that our society has fallen so much that obscenity has become necessary for our action heroes. There are a lot of tough U.S Marines that would never casually use that language. Using foul language doesn’t make you tough any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

      • Tyler

        Really? How many Marines do you know? And if you are a parent, Marines (and other servicemen and women) won’t curse in front of their parents. I am not saying cursing makes you tough, but if you don’t think people in the military service curse a lot, you’re kidding yourself….

      • single mom

        Tyler, I’m a Marine mom, former Air Force, and I agree with you. I know when we’re talking on the phone that my son is watching his language, although the occassional obscenity slips out. I’m fairly certain that if it’s just the Marines in his unit that the word choice is very different. Toughness? What does that have to do with anything?

      • Micheal

        Really, John? It’s obvious you have no idea what you are talking about. I was in the Marines and the most common word you will hear is the f-word. Watch Jarhead, it’s a realistic representation of what it is like being in the Marines.

      • Jason

        “Using foul language doesn’t make you tough any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” F@ck yo@.

    • Matt1

      I agree to a certain degree with this article…
      A-team always was a PG kinda show, even for the ’80s. I liked the movie but they tried to contemporize it while still keeping with the style of the show and I think they did a pretty good job.
      On the other hand…
      I own the Die Hard 4 dvd and while the PG-13 version I saw in the theater was better than I expected, the unrated dvd actually FEELS more like a real Die Hard sequel because there’s actually swearing, blood and the HOW DARE YOU MAKE A DIE HARD MOVIE WHERE BRUCE CAN’T SAY YIPPE-KI-YAY MOTHERF@#KER!!?? factor.
      Some movies benefit from R-rated action and language because it’s just more realistic.

      • Person Who Talks

        Actually since pg-13 movies can only use the f-bomb once, I kindof love the way DH4 cheekily saved theirs until the climax so McClane could say his iconic line one final time.

      • Jason

        They can drop 1 f-bomb in PG-13, but can’t say MF. MF takes it over the imaginary line where 13 year olds don’t swear.

      • Jason

        Bruce Willis’ iconic line was drowned out in the PG-13 version – you can hear it in the R version.

  • Jose

    Then again, The A Team tv show was pretty clean, so this PG-13 movie was keeping to the spirit of the show, which is probably what fans wanted. As for badass R rated action films, I hope Predators joins that list as well. Same for the upcoming Mark Wahlberg and Wil Ferrel buddy cop comedy The Other Guys.

    • Cara

      I agree with Jose. It’s ridiculous to say that a movie needs to have an R rating to be true to the spirit of a G-rated TV show!

      • Jason

        The Smurfs better be R-rated though. I was disappointed that Marmaduke wasn’t.

    • Zach

      Fans? It’s The A-Team, not Lost. Who actually cared to see a film version of this always-cheesy TV series anyway? Having not seen it, it just looked like an excuse to launch a potential franchise with a bunch of not-quite-A-list stars in need of a hit for the year. What’s next, Knight Rider?

      • JaySin420

        Yea I used to watch the A-Team, it was a fun show but there was no need for a movie version so many years later.

        I’ll wait to see it on cable eventually.

      • Kvivik

        What, no one told you? KR has been in the works since the second series flopped.

      • Melissa

        Yes and it’s due to come out sometime in 2012 :( Let the crappy ’80s remakes begin!

    • misslu

      there is a “web//site” named “black//white/Cupid” for dating or relationship, black or white singles can go there to find something sexy or beauty online !!!!

  • Miss Talk

    No one can do Mr T better than Mr T, fools!

    • Quirky

      Ramage Jackson made Mr. T seem like an Oscar winning actor.

  • joblo

    Seriously? First of all, I thought the A-Team was great! I loved it – perfect blend of action and comedy and just totally entertaining the way a popcorn flick should be. Can’t recommend it highly enough and all of my friends also loved it. Secondly, did you even watch the TV show? To make the A-Team a hard R would totally deviate from what the A-Team was all about. The A-Team was the least-violent violent TV show ever. No one ever died. It was like watching GI Joe, where they always escaped the vehicle before it blew up. The movie was more violent, but to go as far as making it R-rated violence would’ve betrayed the spirit of the show too much. And to throw in more cussing or sex for a rating would not have helped.

    I think the A-Team’s biggest problem was that it went up against another 80’s nostalgia flick at the same time and lost to the greater nostalgia. But it’s getting good buzz so it should hold it’s box office well going forward.

    • Kristen

      I couldn’t agree more. I loved the A team when I was younger and now seeing it on the big screen made my day. I thought the guy who played Murdogh (sp?)did a great job.

      • Amy

        Murdock :-)

    • jmo

      Haven’t seen it yet, so no comment on the remake but I loved watching the show as a kid. It wasn’t about the violence, it was about the underdog winning…and how they would knock out BA (Don’t drink the milk BA!!). They were modern day Robin Hoods. If the movie had fun and the underdog won, I say it stayed true to the original.

    • DT

      It got pointed out to me–I know not where I read or heard this–that, as cheesy and unrealistic that it seems, one of the reasons why they never shot or killed anyone is because they were trying to clear their names and show that they weren’t the thuggish outlaws they were thought to be. How are you going to avoid jail if you’re killing mofos left and right? Of course, it could also be argued, how can you expend that much ammo and cause that much mayhem without even accidentally shooting or killing someone at some point?

      • jmo

        Robot Chicken has a great take on your point, DT. Very funny.

  • chaha

    Or maybe Bradley Cooper (aka The Boring One from ‘The Hangover’) isn’t as big a draw as the studios seem to think.

    • Gabby

      Agreed! I don’t know why casting agents/studios ignore the fact that Cooper had nothing to do with the movie being a smash success. He just played an annoyingly smug leader type character that was there for plot convenience, while Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Ken Jeong provided all the hilarity. Even Justin Bartha, who was sort of the straight man and had like 15 minutes of screen time, was more likable.

    • DT

      I don’t hate Bradley Cooper. In the right role, he’s pretty good. While I did enjoy him in this, he generally strikes me as being only slightly edgier than Ashton Kutcher. Of course, with the exception of Liam Neeson, who I’m assuming wanted something light and fun with a big paycheck to help him get over his wife’s death last year, no actors of any real depth were itching to do this, at least not those in their 30s, and if they did, they probably wanted to play Murdock. Sharlto Copley was good, though.

  • Chris

    An r-rated A-Team would actually defeat the spirit of the entire enterprise. One of the things that the TV show was known for was it’s “TV-approved” violence, in which there were bullets and explosions galore but no one seemed to die and there was little to no blood. A gritty, coarse A-Team would totally be out of spirit with the show, which was ridiculous, but all in good fun.

    I loved the A-Team movie and thought it was the first movie this summer I’d go see again. And much of that was due to how accurately it captured the humor and craziness of the original show. I also think the film will be a bit more successful in the long run…a primary part of its main audience is probably fans of the original show, who were busy taking their kids to see Karate Kid and will catch up with it during the week or next weekend. First weekend doesn’t have to be make it or break it. Look at How to Train Your Dragon.

    • thin

      Yeah, I agree with this. Not everything that gets remade has to be done rougher, coarser, and darker than its source material. I’d put the fault of its mediocre success more with a lack of demand than of audience dissatisfaction, because it scored pretty well with people who had seen it. And on a personal note, I thought it was a lot of fun.

      • Timothy

        That is true but I believe that this should have been one of those movies

      • Donknottz

        Totally agree this article is garbage. Any fan of the show will appreciate this movie. I was overly surprised at how good it was. Great Flick the first movie I would see again since Avatar came out.

    • Jason

      I sincerely doubt “The A-Team” is going to have the same box office success as How To Train Your Dragon.

  • MrsBug

    Personally, I’m glad it was PG-13. I avoid R movies for various reasons and find that so much coming out of Hollywood that I’d normally see is R. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing The A-Team this weekend.

    • lissa deushane

      I read your comment about the A Team and avoiding ‘R’ rated movies. Is this appropriate for my 12 year old son to watch?

      • Jack

        Completley its ok for 9 and up.

      • ATeamFan

        As a fan and mother of a teenager, yes, your 12 y/o would be okay to see it. I thought it kept the spirit of the TV show alive and I enjoyed and so did my 15 y/o.

    • Mac

      Like a 9-year old or 12-year old can’t finish this line, cut-off by an explosion: “….motherf*”. Isn’t there a better way to be a parent than pretend like cuss words don’t exist? And besides, even though there is no blood, they are KILLING people. You can’t explain a cuss word, but I guess homicide is okay? Okay. Misplaced Republican values hard at work.

      • Sixgun

        Guess nobody told you – there is no homicide, it’s all pretend. It’s a movie. Progressive democrat brain damage hard at work.

  • Beverly

    I really, really want a sequel.

    • Curly Girl

      I totally agree! I loved the tv show when I was a kid, and I loved the movie. It was fun! I would have been very upset if they’d attempted to go for the f-this, f-that approach…that just feels like lazy writing to me.

  • Pam

    I thought a PG-13 embodied the TV show perfectly. I watched the A-Team on TV growing up and the movie actually made me feel kind of nostalgic. The show was cheesy and the movie was equally cheesy.

  • Jacob

    I think there are other factors involved besides the toned down violence and language (cast, script, 20 years since the show aired).
    Kick-Ass proved that the R-rated action comedy isn’t a major draw, especially when the cast is full of unknowns.
    And wasn’t the A-Team (the show) pretty family-friendly to begin with? Asking the film to suddenly amp up the violence and language simply because they can just seems a bit disingenuous.
    I dunno. I get miffed when folks say that PG-13 comedy and PG-13 action “Just doesn’t work.” To assume that the A-Team would have been a BETTER film because of it seems a bit strange. I doubt actually hearing the end to those two “Motherfu—” would have made the film a bigger box-office hit. Take it for what it is, and then rent the unrated Blu-ray.

  • midas328

    I thought that the “A-Team” movie was great! I just don’t understand these so-called reviewers (USA Today, anyone?) who show their complete lack of knowledge about the TV show!

    • You are dumb

      I watched the tv every week was a big fan and felt the movie sucked and had little in common with the show so give me a break.

      BC as Faceman? wrong! this BA was horrible. Heck they couldn’t even get Murdoch right even if the actor was good.

  • DDB

    I totally agree with everyone else. The source material was a TV show, so to turn that into an overly profane and bloddy movie just wouldn’t make sense. I thought the movie was fun and entertaining, and I hope more people get a chance to check it out in the weeks to come.

  • Tim

    Your own comment rules open with “Keep it clean”

    A good action movie does not need sex and curse words what it needs is a good story with compelling characters… and explosions.

    • Timothy

      Very true, but New Mr. T sounded forced and fake, just a terrible actor to me/ original Mr. T was ‘actually’ a bad a** even before the A-Team series.

  • Saracen Riggins

    Wow, so much wrong with this world when A)Bradley Cooper is “in demand”. And B)people are disappointed when there aren’t enough “f” words in a film. Classy.

  • Justin

    Studio weenies killed the Die Hard franchise by gutting it for a PG-13 rating. A lot of times PG-13 has actually made me rethink whether to see a film or not. I want to hear adults speak and act like adults, call me crazy.

    • Sean

      The adults I’m around don’t use the F-word every three second, don’t jump out of exploding buildings, and definitely don’t kill 30 people a day.

      Call me crazy…

      • Justin

        You guys are missing the point, the article talked about 80’s action movies being crass and fun. My opinion is that fun has been removed from action/comedies in favor of sterile PC family friendly slog. @Sean and @Michael cleary missed the Beverly Hill Cops and Die Hards of the 80s. There are plenty of Shrek sequels out there for you two stiffs to enjoy.

      • Sixgun

        Boy, you need to meet a different crowd.

    • Michael

      Hate to tell you this, Justin, but I hear teenagers throw the f-word around ten times more than any of the adults I know. Just sayin’.

      • Dan

        Yup, most kids swear like the stereotypical sailor. Why? To feel like/act grown up.

        In my grown-up daily life I tend to only run into protracted swearing when around teens!

    • cindy sue

      I am an adult surrounded by other adults all day at work and no one and I mean no one swears at all no less every third word. Cussing does not make you a grown up, and actually might show that you need to grow up.

      • Timothy

        I agree Cindy Sue, I grew up some time ago, I now only use swears like salt and alcohol; only on sparingly

      • CraigJ

        cindy sue, who the f cares? Cussing doesn’t make you and adult and it also doesn’t mean you need to grow up. I think an adult who doesn’t swear is a prude.

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