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
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
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
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
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes