Pitch staff writer Ben Palosaari proudly lists Red Dawn — John Milius' somber 1984 movie positing a Soviet-backed invasion of a United States populated by Brat Packers — as one of his three favorite movies. That indefensible enthusiasm finally came in handy last week, when it was time for us to send a reviewer to see the new Red Dawn remake. Below, a debriefing.
Wilson: Is the new Red Dawn any good?
Wait, are you just saying that because the original Red Dawn is your third-favorite movie of all time?
I am not.
Also, seriously: third-favorite? ever?
I'm a sucker for movies with sad, downbeat endings. Give me a movie where the guy doesn't get the girl, the family dog is really dead or commies gun down child soldiers in the snow.
Are the bad guys Russian this time?
No, they're North Korean. When this remake was shot, the script called for a Chinese invasion, but in the year or so that this thing has sat around, somebody at the studio remembered that it makes a lot of money from Chinese moviegoers, so there's some awkward dubbing early on. They also clearly wanted some product-placement money. At one point, a Subway franchisee gives the good guys, like, a month's worth of tasty Subway foods and a really big bucketful of, I think, Pepsi.
So, North Korea? Is the movie in black-and-white?
No, it's in color. But there's no red in this Red Dawn — there's so little blood and carnage that you could air this thing on PBS right after Sesame Street.
Oh, no. The first movie to be rated PG-13 isn't even PG-13-y this time?
Right. In the original, all kinds of people get blown away. This time, you see the shooter shoot, but you don't really see anyone bleed when there's a hit.
Are the freedom-fighting kids still called the Wolverines?
Yes, and they all look around 25, even though they're supposed to be high schoolers.
Do a lot of people die?
Not nearly enough.
How's the acting?
Josh Peck takes the Charlie Sheen role — Matt Eckart, the little brother — and makes you miss the intense genius of Charlie Sheen. When Peck plays angry, which he must do often, he just kind of squints and imitates Christian Bale's Dark Knight voice. He used to be on a Nickelodeon show, and he was chubby. I was hoping that he'd be fat here so we could get some tension out of the Wolverines having to wait on the fattest guerrilla.
Who's the big star?
Chris Hemsworth, the Australian hunk with Jack Donaghy eyes — you know him as Thor.
Does he have a hammer here?
No, just semiautomatic rifles. Also, he scolds a lot. He's always like, "You're endangering the team."
Was he a Marine?
Yes, one who served in Iraq.
And does he have things to teach the Wolverines?
Yes, but not how to sleep in shifts so someone doesn't steal your shit in the night.
Is there a montage in which Thor trains Wolverines?
Yes. He shows them how to shoot guns, how to fight hand-to-hand, how to stitch wounds, that kind of thing.
Is that the only montage?
No. After they agree to be insurgents, they also agree to do a second montage in which they're all, "We're sneaking into the city to get some weapons and then retiring to a secret cave with a lockable door that's never explained."
That sounds awful.
It really is. But the audience I saw it with cheered and laughed and clapped and generally gave no indication that they weren't watching an NRA-approved episode of Two and a Half Men.
Would you rather have been watching Two and a Half Men?
[Thinks hard.] No. I felt driven to see this. It was duty.
Do you feel betrayed?
You know, I kind of do. They could have called this anything. I don't know why it had to be called Red Dawn. I feel like the studio knew my sense of duty and exploited it. I regret not leading an uprising inside the theater. Wolverines!