It's hard to know who should be offended most by "Red Dawn."
The North Koreans? They're shown invading Spokane, Wash., with planes and paratroopers dropping onto suburban streets as though this were a 1940s war movie.
The Chinese? The movie's original villains whose ethnicity, as signaled by flags and military symbols, was changed to avoid angering and alienating the increasingly important market of China.
The Americans? Whose country is invaded with ease.
Residents of Spokane? Their Northwestern city is played on screen by Detroit and other Michigan locations.
1.5 stars = Bad
- Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson.
- Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language.
Fans of the 1984 "Red Dawn" starring Patrick Swayze, among others? Or perhaps moviegoers in general who expect Thanksgiving week releases to have a stronger pedigree, something other than "oh yeah, this is that movie with Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson that's been hanging around for a while."
The original "Red Dawn" was the first movie with a PG-13 to open in theaters after a re-evaluation of the ratings system that summer. It dramatized Russian and Cuban troops parachuting into Colorado, where high school students turned into freedom fighters.
In the remake, the North Koreans are cast as the villains, although a Russian counterinsurgency specialist shows up after the kids prove surprisingly formidable.
Mr. Hemsworth is Jed Eckert, a Marine who served in Iraq and is home on leave. His younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck), is the quarterback on his high school team, and the men's widowed father is a police officer.
When Spokane comes under attack, Jed emerges as the leader of youthful ragtag rebels who master weaponry in a ridiculously short period of time. They call themselves the Wolverines, after the school football team, and are fueled by patriotic reminders such as, "For them, this is just some place. For us, it's our home."
They include romantic interests -- Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas -- for the Eckert boys, along with a geek tech portrayed by Mr. Hutcherson and Connor Cruise (son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) as the mayor's son.
"Red Dawn" has a small, cheap feel to it, as though Spokane were a tiny hamlet instead of a city of 210,000. It belatedly offers the briefest of explanations about how North Korea was able to pull off an invasion of the United States (the phrase electromagnetic pulse is mentioned), makes no attempt to try to humanize the enemy as the first did, and generally proves absurd at every turn.
Even the normally dependable Mr. Hemsworth, aka Thor, is stuck with a largely one-note character while more mature actors such as Brett Cullen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Michael Beach don't get to stick around for the whole movie. Will Yun Lee is given the thankless role of the lead baddie, Captain Cho.
"Red Dawn" makes for a blue Thanksgiving.