Trivia fiends know the original 1984 version of this home-turf-invasion thriller as the first movie to come under the PG-13 rating. The mild violence barely hid a pendulum swinging away from lefty Hollywood’s post-Vietnam hand-wringing toward a hysteria in sync with Reagan’s “evil empire.” Today’s wholly unnecessary remake has, in turn, these same two elements as distinguishing features: Machine-gun fire sprayed by insurgent teens defending Washington State from parachuting foreigners has a Saving Private Ryan ping to it—the sound of bloodless action made for semi-grown-up kids. And the horde of North Koreans (changed from the Chinese during this film’s lengthy postproduction) plays to axis-of-evil anxieties, effective in a pretitle sequence in which clips of Obama, Biden and Hillary Clinton make the case for eastward vigilance.
But a new Red Dawn could have been so much more fun had it thrown a properly out-of-bounds tea party. (It lacks the signature brawn of original director John Milius, a guns-first libertarian.) This update’s cast, led by Chris Hemsworth as an Iraq vet, in a tentative performance captured before Thor and The Avengers, has roughly the same bland nonappeal as the original’s Patrick Swayze and pals. The script would have benefitted from more shameless wing-nuttery, as when a black mayor (no relation to any real-life political figure) preaches appeasement. Instead, we get too much running around the woods yelling “Wolverines!” Even today’s 13-year-old is too sophisticated for that.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf