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Always darkest before Red Dawn'

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Remake fails to match spirit of original

The 1980s were a simpler time. America was America and we knew exactly who the bad guys were. That's what made a film like 1984's 'Red Dawn' such a success; it was rah-rah jingoism built around showing those Russkies who was boss.

In the 21st century, however, those lines of demarcation aren't so clear. This leads to the 'Red Dawn' remake. Since the circumstances aren't nearly so clear cut these days the movie's main enemy even had to be changed before the film was released you get a film that falls short of the plucky 'America! Fk yeah!' spirit of the original.

('Red Dawn' was initially filmed in 2009 and featured China as the American nemesis. Only it turns out that the Chinese market share is really big, so rather than risk offending potential customers, some digital tweaks and reshoots were made in order to shift the bad guy burden to North Korea since they don't buy tickets to our movies.)

Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth, 'The Avengers') is a Marine who has returned to his home in Spokane, Washington while on leave. He's staying with his family and trying to reconnect with his younger brother Matt (Josh Peck, 'ATM'); he doesn't seem to be doing a particularly good job of it.

The next morning, North Korea invades the Pacific Northwest. Seriously.

Jed and Matt are sent to the family cabin by their police sergeant father. They careen through the streets of Spokane, picking up a few people along the way Matt's football teammates Daryl (Connor Cruise, 'Seven Pounds') and Danny (Edwin Hodge, 'Take Me Home Tonight'), nerdy kid Robert (Josh Hutcherson, 'The Hunger Games') and Jed's childhood crush Toni (Adrianne Palicki, TV's 'Friday Night Lights') among others and head into the woods.

From there, they begin to wage a guerrilla campaign against the enemy forces occupying their town. Again, seriously.

The group adopts the high school's mascot as their battle cry as they attempt an insurgency against the foreign army. They battle in the streets of Spokane as they try to save their town and their country from the invaders.

Let's get this out of the way: this movie is inherently ludicrous. Of course, the original was as well, but at least the 1984 version kept things on a somewhat realistic scale, with small-town Colorado kids fighting in the forests and in the mountains. In 2012, the Wolverines manage to become a finely-tuned urban commando squad after nothing more than a brief Jed Eckert-led training montage. These kids go from scared of guns to crack shots in what seems like an instant.

The cast is amiable enough, though there's a general blandness to the performances that precludes any real investment in the characters. Add to that lackluster dialogue and some pie-in-the-sky plot points and you get a film that mostly fails to resonate. There are some impressive action sequences, but they aren't nearly enough to salvage the experience.

The biggest issue with 'Red Dawn' is that the vast majority of what happens doesn't make a lick of sense. The self-serious tone only serves to make the whole thing that much goofier. 1984 was a much simpler time; in the world of 2012, the black-and-white sensibility of the story simply doesn't click. The line between the good guys and the bad guys has become blurry; 'Red Dawn' never seems sure on which side it belongs.

1 out of 5

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