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Still shot from the movie: Red Dawn.

Red Dawn

When North Korea invades Spokane, Washington, a small number of survivors (Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas) form a resistance group and try to recapture their homeland. This movie is based on the 1984 film of the same name.

Overall Grade: C
Violence: C-
Sexual Content: A-
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: C+
Release Date: 20 Nov 2012
Run Time: 94
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

The US Military confronts invading aliens all the time in the movies. So I suppose it makes sense that a bunch of high school football players should be able to front the battle if only North Koreans land on American soil.

When the lights go out in the sleepy town of Spokane Washington, quarterback Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) and his older brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth), who is home on leave, don’t think much about it. However, when bombs and fatigue-wearing paratroopers begin dropping from the sky the next morning, they quickly realize this isn’t a launch for a new pizza shop.

Their Dad, police chief Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen), sends his two sons and their friends (Josh Hutcherson, Connor Cruise, Adrianne Palicki, Edwin Hodge) to hide in the family cabin in the woods. But after North Korean commander Captain Lo shoots their father in the head, the Eckert brothers are done hiding. Using his military training, Jed drills his brother and friends on the use of assault weapons and guerilla warfare, and then mounts a counter attack that would make any terrorist leader proud.

If this sounds like a plot full of potential holes (and not just from the bullets), you’re right. But this remake of the 1984 film (starring Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson) takes itself far less seriously than the John Millus’ movie did. It offers humor, missteps and an underlying sense of absurdity amidst the exploding cars and rounds of live ammunition. These kids’ experience with warfare is limited to Call of Duty and once they realize they’re living the video game, it “sucks”. Still, if you’re okay with the preposterous, then who better to rally the flagging spirits of a defeated town than gun-pumping high school students chanting the name of their school mascot: Wolverines, Wolverines, Wolverines!

Unfortunately for teen viewers, this script is pelted with profanities including rapid-fire scatological slang and a couple of strong sexual expletives. It also contains copious amounts of shooting, explosions and car crashes but relatively little amounts of blood and gore. Even the scene of Chief Eckert’s death is as sanitized as many video games. The most disturbing moment for many audience members may be the killing of a deer for dinner. (Mow down endless legions of humans but don’t shoot Bambi!)

Although the young actors deserve credit for their earnest efforts, don’t expect much more. While Red Dawn comes with a political statement about the state of the country’s defense, even it may get lost in this display of adolescent fervor that is usually reserved for home coming weekend.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence: Newsreel footage includes scenes of battles, dictators and military threats. Brief on-field football action includes hard-hitting tackles. Planes drop bombs and paratroopers. Homes and businesses are destroyed. Numerous characters are imprisoned, shot, blown up or injured in car accidents. Cars crash during high-speed chases. A man is shot in the head (off-screen). Some bloody injuries are shown. A girl sutures a wound. A home is set on fire. A boy throws up after shooting his first human. He later drinks the blood of an animal he has killed. Frequent war violence is portrayed. Characters are put in peril because of the decisions of others.

Sexual Content: A teen couple kisses on several occasions.

Language: The script contains a strong sexual expletive, a crude hand gesture, frequent scatological slang, terms of Deity, crude sexual language and other profanities.

Alcohol / Drug Use: High school students go to a bar. Drinking is shown in social settings, a bar and at home. Some characters drink during times of stress. A drunk soldier makes advances on a female coworker.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Jed just returned from a tour of duty in a war zone. How likely is it that he would sleep through the invasion? What sounds, etc, do soldiers need to be attuned to in order to survive?

Why are channels of communication a vital link during a battle? Why are some people imprisoned in the town while others are allowed to walk free?

In the 1984 movie Red Dawn, Soviets were the invaders. Now it is the North Koreans. Does this reflect changes in world politics? How is the nationality of the villains the moviemakers choose influenced in a global society where they want to be able to sell their films to other countries?

Video alternatives

The US has found itself under attack in many a Hollywood movie, including Battleship, I Am Legend and War of the Worlds (1953).

Home Video Notes

Red Dawn releases to home video on March 5, 2013. There are no special features included.

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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