EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 24, 2012

'Red Dawn' comes across like a dangerous joke

By Greg Vellante

---- — Some of the most powerful movies are classified by how strongly they cause the viewer to think about the subject material.

The original “Red Dawn” presented the idea of a small American town being invaded by the Soviet Union and Cuba during Cold War tensions, while the remake pins the invasion on the North Koreans.

So yes, I thought about the subject matter, but this hardly makes “Red Dawn” a powerful movie. In fact, it’s about as weak and flimsy as a sheet of paper that reads “Imagine if America was occupied by another country.”

Sure, I’ll imagine it, but I’m still not going to be entertained by a piece of paper unless I can fold it up into a paper airplane and fly it far, far away from me—something I desperately wish I could have done with “Red Dawn.”

Nothing in this film stands out, nothing sticks, and nothing appears to be remotely inspired during its modest running time that feels like a lifetime. “Red Dawn” is entering into familiar territory with every step it takes — unsurprising, unremarkable, and ultimately unsatisfying.

Shelved since 2010 and a victim of reedits to change the occupying forces from Chinese to North Korean (because Americans can’t tell the difference, right?), “Red Dawn” reeks of ideas gone sour.

Intending to recreate the 1984 original in the mindset of post-9/11 America, “Red Dawn” misses all its targets and ends up pulverizing the audience with senseless propaganda of pumped-up American ideals.

And while I admire the story of a group of teenagers taking the invasion into their own hands and fighting back, the premise is implausibility at its finest. After sacrificing most of its logic, “Red Dawn” simply becomes another humdrum action flick about people with guns running around and fighting other people with guns.

Things also explode and eventually the movie just becomes a dizzying assault of gratuitous sights and sounds.

Perhaps if the dialogue were a bit snappier or the actors a bit more believable, the movie could have carried itself on the decent personalities of its cast.

“Thor’s” Chris Hemsworth leads the group as the archetypal “returned marine,” who is often seen clenching his fists and staring off meditatively into the distance.

Josh Peck (Nickelodeon’s “Drake & Josh,” “The Wackness”) plays his younger brother in a role that turns out to be one of the saddest characters placed on screen this year. It’s just too bad that Peck can’t seem to sell the material for a second.

Rounding out the cast is Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”), Adrianne Palicki (“Friday Night Lights”), and Connor Cruise (uh…he’s the adopted son of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise). B-listed in cast and brainless in plot, the movie seems far more appropriate to bargain shelves than theater screens.

Especially in times like these, a stupid movie like “Red Dawn” could give anyone the wrong idea. The movie’s fist-pumping American attitude is showcased in its ridiculously over-the-top final shot, but it doesn’t deserve the patriotism it means to inspire.

Perhaps a more interesting movie could have handled this material better. “Red Dawn” simply comes off as a very dangerous joke.

Red Dawn 1 1/2 out of 4 Stars