The Rescue (1988) — Military brats head into North Korea to rescue their dads

“No! My dad will buy an electric chair and my mom will pull the switch.”

Justin’s rating: Can I come too? Sounds like a delightful time.

Justin’s review: There is a movie genre that, for each of us, is completely different and totally sacred. And that’s the genre of “movies that you grew up with as a kid when you didn’t really know better.” It’s a genre full of questionable entries that still mean a lot to you because they were your staples when you were younger. For me, one of the entries on this list is The Rescue.

My foggy recollection is that we taped this off of a Disney movie of the week special, ending up as one of those titles we watched a lot. It wasn’t my all-time favorite or anything, but as a Youth, I was always down for a tale of kid empowerment. Kids flying the space shuttle? Fighting the commies? Let’s do it. And since we weren’t allowed to watch Rambo II, this was an acceptable substitute.

As an adult, I can appreciate how far the filmmakers of The Rescue had to stretch to make this premise work. So SEAL team goes on a top-secret mission near North Korea to sink a disabled U.S. sub but gets captured by enemy. Back on a military base in South Korea, the children of these men discover that the U.S. government isn’t going to try to bring them back home, at least not before their execution. So, the kids figure, why don’t they step up and do what the military won’t?

As a parent, this sends me into mental conniptions. I haven’t had the “If I’m captured by North Koreans, I expressly forbid you from mounting a rescue with your schoolyard chums” talk with my children yet, but I assure you that it will happen before the day is through.

In any case, the junior SEAL team here is made up of rebellious hothead J.J. (Kevin Dillon), martial arts expert Adrian (Christine Harnos), and responsible redhead Shawn (Ned Vaughn). They’re joined by Max (Marc Price), the son of an admiral (James Cromwell!), who steals rejected rescue plans that his father created. Also, Shawn’s younger brother Bobby stows away, just in case their mother hadn’t already keeled over due to anxiety.

Without any weapons or parental supervision, the kids take a boat up the river into North Korea and use their various skills to pull off the impossible. In fact, barely anybody dies in this movie, which makes the titular rescue even more astonishing. Is the military taking notes? Maybe they need to send kids on all missions from here on out.

So yeah, there’s no end to the things you could nitpick in this movie. The acting is not always the best (although Marc Price is genuinely good as the comic relief), the plot is quite unbelievable, and there’s just no way that they could sell the actual operation as being anything other than cartoonish. But this isn’t a serious examination of a realistic scenario; it’s a fun kid-centric fantasy that invites us along for a crazy time.

And it is a good time. It’s no masterpiece, I’ll grant you, but I enjoyed watching The Rescue for what it was as well as a reclaimed part of my past. Seeing kids so far out of their depth as they try to improvise all of the steps of this trip is even nail-biting at times. And the fact that this was filmed in New Zealand makes for gorgeous landscape eye candy as the kids sail up the “North Korean” river.

The Rescue never made huge waves, nor has it enjoyed much of a resurgence. But my childhood thinks it’s the bomb.

Didja notice?

  • Enjoy some stock military footage while listening to phone calls!
  • Drinking beer in front of your dad is a gutsy move
  • “That’s a beautiful girl you’ve got there chief!” “You should see her room!”
  • The news anchor has the biggest hair EVER
  • Kids salute their parents a lot in this movie
  • Wearing ski masks on a U.S. Base is not a great idea
  • I always liked the handheld photocopier
  • “Max, what are you doing in my car? Max, what are you doing in my dress?”
  • Oh man, don’t destroy the car!
  • That boat has a whole lot of gas
  • Kill count: 1 (boat pilot)
  • Shawn dresses up like a Jedi, I swear
  • Cool trap door underneath the table

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