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Pearl Harbor

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Pearl Harbor

Starring: Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale
Director: Michael Bay
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 183 Minutes
Release Date: May 2001
Genres: Action, Drama, War, Romance

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, using the same sensitivity that he did in COYOTE UGLY, turns his attention from scantily clad women who make their living by dancing on a bar to one of the seminal moments in our nation's history. The result is that PEARL HARBOR is a lame love triangle in a patriotic wrapper. It's the movie that everyone feared, incorrectly as it turned out, that TITANIC would be -- a big, expensive special effects extravaganza without a heart. And it's the kind of movie that leaves viewers angry for wasting incredible amounts of their time with such drivel.

You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll undoubtedly laugh out loud at its many sappy moments of ridiculous hokum. And you probably at least feel like crying that such an important event in our country's history has been turned into a silly romance with one clichéd line after another. What a colossal wasted opportunity.

Buy the popcorn and go for the big tub. You'll need something to do as you wait forever for the movie to get to its raison d'être, the destruction of most of the United States's navy at Pearl Harbor.

The movie's story concerns a pair of hotdog pilots, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), who grow up together and "fly" their first plane at age 9. Once grown, they both end up as military pilots and in love with the same woman, Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale). All of the characters are reduced to stereotypes so that you'll likely care little when tragedy strikes them. Even the movie's sex scene, which is shot with a soap commercial gloss, is laughable. Sometimes the film gets so over-the-top that you begin to wonder if it is an intentional parody of a wartime romance.

The trite dialog includes such gems as, "You don't dogfight with a manual," "If I had one more night to live, I'd want to spend it with you," "All I ever wanted was to have a home and grow old together," and "Good huntin'." After most such lines, the music is brought up dramatically. The movie, with its heavy, syrupy score, frequently seems more like a music video than a movie.

Writer Randall Wallace (THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK) does come up with one good line. When Rafe is asked by Doolittle (Alec Baldwin) if he knows what a "top secret mission" means, he replies that it's "the kind of mission where you get medals, and they send them to your relatives."

Yes, PEARL HARBOR, directed by Michael Bay (ARMAGEDDON), does have one of the best trailers ever. The trailer scenes form the body of the movie's only successful part, the half-hour section that occurs just past the midpoint in this endurance contest of a picture -- it's over three hours long. My advice to you is to arrive ninety minutes late since nothing, absolutely nothing, of interest happens until the Japanese Zeros arrive to obliterate our fleet. A typical scene during the cinematic wasteland that is the movie's first half has Rafe stealing a police boat so that he can show the New York City lights to Evelyn. What, you will be asking yourself frequently during this period, does this all have to do with Pearl Harbor? And, as you twiddle your thumbs waiting for something to happen, you'll keep asking yourself, "Why does this story have to be over three hours long?"

Responding to a compliment on his brilliance, the Japanese officer planning the infamous sneak attack, replies, "A brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war." Which brings us to the movie's most intriguing revelation. Pearl Harbor was our fault! In a fascinating bit of revisionist history, the movie has the Japanese leader explain how they were forced into it. Kind of makes you wonder what insights a Bruckheimer story about Hitler would divulge about his real motives.

If you're willing to put up with the saccharine nonsense of the first half, the movie's middle section -- a CGI tour de force -- will send chills up your spine as our boys are almost completely annihilated and sent to watery graves in which many still lie. The computer generated effects are awesome, which is a good argument for seeing a film about the making of PEARL HARBOR.

"I'm not going to make it," one of the brave soldiers says at the end. I know just how he feels. I barely made it through the long ordeal of watching the movie.

PEARL HARBOR runs a butt-numbing 3:03. It is rated PG-13 for sustained intense war sequences, images of the wounded, brief sensuality and some language and would be acceptable for teenagers. Its PG-13 rating is quite questionable since the horrific scenes of the wartime wounded, who squirt blood everywhere, are much more intense than you'd ever expect to find in a PG-13 film.

Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes

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