Red Dawn and finding the humor in war…

UnknownCast of RED DAWN 1984 version

First there was Hunger Games, and now Red Dawn. Seems like it’s a good year to show kids in war. Now I love a good, rollicking adventure story. It’s my favorite type. A lot of people have been bothered to see teens with grenades but that doesn’t really bother me. Teens have been in wars since the beginning of war–when the first boy got jealous of the attention the another boy was getting. War is always started because of jealousy, right? I think so. Either that or fried chicken, I can’t remember which. Anyways, strapping young men have always served on the front lines. It’s a story that needs telling and I don’t mind the violence.

But can we add a little humor, please? I don’t care if it’s slapstick, knee-jerk, ironic, witty banter, or what–can we add at least one character who isn’t so darn grim? When there’s humor, there’s hope.

The Red Dawn 1984 version is pretty psycho. Like Hunger Games. Anytime someone’s willing to kill their friend or ally over war I have to stop trusting them, and stop rooting for them. I don’t like those stories. They’re good and possibly great–but I don’t like them.

I loved a Red Dawn remake from Australia called Tomorrow When the War Began. In it the teens actually deal with the fact they’re ending someone else’s life … even if it’s just in self-defense. And I really appreciated the fact that the film spend at least 25 minutes of character development before anything bad happened to them … because then I cared about what happened to them. It’s a solid, entertaining film and I think it’s a well done kid-meets-war story. And it has humorous characters in it.


But if there’s any movie that handles kids meeting violence well it’s THE WAR. Holy moley mop buckets! Elijah Wood, Kevin Costner, and it deals with violence, race, war, hurt, and love in a profound way.

imagesHave you seen any good media that deals with kids in war?

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  1. The War does look good, I’m not really bothered about watching the really violent ones. I’d love a kid version of Hunt for Red October. Have you seen that?

  2. Sofia

     /  December 4, 2012

    The Tomorrow, When the War Began books are very, very good. The movie is too clean and superficial. The books have more grit, introspection and much better action scenes.

    Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now is great if your into “issue” YA.

    • EllieAnn

       /  December 4, 2012

      If the movie was good–I can’t imagine how much better the books would be. And thanks for the Rosoff recommendation, Sofia!

  3. I’m a sucker for Hunger Games, which is suprising as anything hinting at blood or anger makes me nervous. Katniss could stand to lighten up a bit, the pouting- all the pouting!- is a bit much.

    • EllieAnn

       /  December 4, 2012

      The Hunger Games is just so exciting. I could not put the book down. Until it was done. I took it with me everywhere. But Katniss did not make my top-10 list of favorite heroines for sure.

  4. I recall being a huge fan of Toy Soldiers when I was twelve, but I have no idea how it would hold up to a fresh-eyed viewing. (I suspect not well.) Still, Sean Astin! Wil Wheaton! Louis Gossett Jr.!

  5. I guess I would have to go back to Schindler’s List and how those kids jumped into the human wasted under the outhouses to survive. Now that’s bravery.

  6. I hear you about wanting films to make us care about characters… I love your insight, as always!

    I’m not sure if this quite answers your question, but “The Boy in Striped Pajamas” is an incredible film about two young boys—the son of a prison camp commander and a Jewish boy in a concentration camp—who befriend each other. It’s one of the most beautiful, though heart-wrenching, films I’ve ever seen.

  7. I’ve never heard of Tomorrow When the War Began! I’ll have to check it out. We just rewatched Red Dawn this past weekend… the original. And I’m with Mr. Skinner. Toy Soldiers. I just rewatched that again not long ago. I’d like to get my nephews to watch it and tell me what they think. The oldest loved the original Red Dawn, but maybe only because his father did. :)

  8. I’ve been debating watching The War and might finally check it out. Your movie recommendations tend to be spot on (ie, Book of Kells.)

  9. I liked Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze a million years ago, but I liked anything with Patrick Swayze back then.

    Empire of the Sun is an excellent movie from the 80s about a wealthy British boy in Shanghai who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during WWII when they invaded China. Starring Christian Bale (the boy) and John Malkovic.

  10. I’ve long said that the movies I want my sons to see about the realities of war are Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, and the Best Years of Our Lives. None of them is about teens, though.

    I’m okay with teens at war too. But I do remember an old film called Friendly Persuasion which had Anthony Perkins as the teenage son of Gary Cooper in a family of Quaker pacifists during the Civil War. Perkins character has to decide whether to remain a pacifist or take part in the war. It was a good movie.


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