'Red Dawn' re-boot fails to deliver

Josh Peck, Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in Red Dawn. (Lionsgate)

Josh Peck, Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in Red Dawn. (Lionsgate)

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

It's not every terrible movie that critiques itself. But as the forces of Kim Jong-un overrun Spokane, Wash., by sea in Red Dawn, a soon-to-go-guerilla high schooler exclaims, "North Korea? That doesn't make sense!"

Get used to it, kid. An impoverished axis-point-of-evil -- that can barely get a Taepodong missile off the ground without blowing itself up -- is able to cross the Pacific and defeat a country with 15 times its population (to say nothing of the world's most lethal military).

Geez, who's the U.S. going to be invaded by next year, Yemen?

Almost everything about this re-boot of Red Dawn is more interesting than the movie itself. Apparently China was going to be the (much more credible) enemy at one point -- until somebody realized that a billion Chinese go to movies. And in any case, the Chinese wouldn't invade the U.S. They'd just foreclose.

The other thing is that Red Dawn (and the only slightly less ludicrous 1984 original) speaks to an odd aspect of the American psyche. A country that hasn't really been invaded in 200 years is obsessed with imagining same in its movies (Meanwhile, in many parts of the globe, being invaded is called "Tuesday," and the last thing they want to see is a movie about it).

This fetish is hard to fulfill at a time when your enemies -- as scary as they may be in terrorist mode -- just aren't up to Soviet snuff.

But okay, let's just swallow this load of kimchi called a premise. Career stuntman and first-time director Dan Bradley doesn't so much re-boot John Milius's 1984 Commie nightmare as try to match it by rote. With troops taking Spokane in a day, a band of hardy high-schoolers (including The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson and Tom's adopted son Connor Cruise) hide out in the woods, adopt the name of their football team, Wolverines, and begin the counterinsurgency one commie at a time.

One difference this time: the teens have a militarily-trained leader in the form of a recent Iraq War vet, played by Chris Hemsworth. To inspire them, he utters one of the most confusing lines in the movie: "In Iraq, we were the good guys, there to keep order. Here, we have to be the bad guys." Um, okay.

Craftwise, the two Red Dawns could not be more dissimilar. Bat-guano-crazy as he was, Mililus was an accomplished filmmaker. Bradley is not.

This film is rated PG.


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