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Entertainment & Lifestyle

‘Red Dawn’ remake lacks interest

11/22/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

From left, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth star in “Red Dawn.”
Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
“Red Dawn” is the story of a ragtag group of American kids battling an invading foreign power, and it’s a pretty awful remake of the 1984 film. But it does answer one important question: Whatever happened to the pudgy kid who played Josh on the old Nickelodeon sitcom “Drake and Josh?”

Well, he got himself in shape and is now fighting North Korean soldiers in America’s Great Northwest.

But that’s getting ahead of the story, such as it is. The movie opens with media clips of a world gone mad. There’s been another recession. North Korea’s new leader is a saber-rattling neophyte, and Russia has elected a nationalist government bent on reviving the Bad Old Days. America’s leaders are bothered by these events but do little more than fret, possibly preoccupied with keeping tabs on who their espionage chiefs are friending on Facebook.

International turmoil has little effect on life in Spokane, Wash., however, where high school football still rules. The main concern of the townsfolk is star quarterback Matt (Josh Peck, formerly of “Drake and Josh”), who is not much of a team player. His older brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth, of “Thor” and “The Avengers”), watches Matt single-handedly lose the big game, and it’s the worst thing to ever happen to both of them, not counting their town being invaded by North Korea.

Yes, tanks roll into Spokane. Director Dan Bradley deserves kudos for the initial invasion scenes, where enemy paratroopers fill the skies of this once-serene town. The scenes are chilling, but when the soldiers hit the ground and start rounding up and/or shooting innocent citizens, “Red Dawn” turns into a 1950s propaganda film. The North Koreans aren’t given individual personalities beyond “evil” and “really evil.” They shoot without warning or cause, they throw our cheerleader girlfriends in interment camps and they cover our walls with communist slogans. It’s all designed to appeal to the Stephen Colbert part of our brains, the part that believes the Axis of Evil is just waiting for America to drop its guard so it can enslave Mr. and Mrs. Suburbanite.

Fortunately for our country, Jed is a tough-as-nails Iraqi war vet who trains Matt and a handful of other young folks (including Josh Hutcherson, of “The Hunger Games”) to fight the insurgency. Thanks to his guidance — and an endless supply of weapons and explosives — the Wolverines, as they call themselves, cause trouble for the occupiers. Among the Wolverines, Matt is the lone wolf, and his risky actions draw the ire of Jed. The tense scenes between Jed and Matt might have been more effective if Peck did not still sound like the whiny kid from his old sitcom.

In the 1984 film, which starred Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson, the Soviet Union played the villain. For the remake, which began filming in 2009, China was cast as the invading force, but that was changed in post-production to North Korea. I try to imagine the director’s reaction when the studio informed him, “Um, we love the movie, but we’d like one tiny change ...”

“Red Dawn” is one of those cases where a documentary on the making of the movie would be more interesting than the movie itself.

The movie, which opens Nov. 21, is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language.

H (out of four)


Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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