...A film that will live in INFAMY

Pearl Harbor wants to be an important historical drama. It also wants to be a fun summer action movie. It fails at both, coming across as a mix between Titanic and Armageddon. Like those films, Pearl Harbor will make millions of dollars and shatter some box office records.

Also like those blockbusters, the film is little more than a special effects parade, unburdened by a plot, believable scenarios or smart dialogue.

Ordinarily, an action drama should be left off the hook, but the promotional campaign of Pearl Harbor has been so arrogant, so Russell Crowe-like in its sense of self-importance, that the film deserves to be rapped soundly.

To the producer of Pearl Harbor: Ben Affleck is no Tom Hanks, director Michael Bay is no Steven Spielberg, screenplay author Randall Wallace is not a writer and--even with its bleached-out frames and choppy, bloody action--this film is no Saving Private Ryan. It's not even a Private Benjamin.

The film's first problem is its length--the nearly three-hour epic takes 90 minutes to develop a trio of wafer-thin characters (Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsdale). And it is not even 90 minutes of action--it's 90 minutes of a love triangle more juvenile than a secret admirer letter from a 13-year-old to her crush.

Oooooooh, Rafe likes Evelyn; ooooooh, Danny likes Evelyn, too.

How will they ever be friends again? What could possibly bring them together?

Answer: not-so-subtle racism.

A racially insensitive depiction of a few thousand Japanese soldiers can make the most jealous of lovers see the greater good. On the Japanese slur scale--ranging from one to ten--the film scores an "internment camp." The word is that Disney marketing executives will be submitting a toned-down version of the film overseas--so as not to offend Germans and Japanese people. That's understandable, but why do we Americans receive the bigoted version? Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Bay insist that the film is not a history lesson.

History lesson or not, the film is certainly not a lesson in physics--the acrobatics that Affleck employs to save his skin invalidate two-thirds of Newton's laws.

The special effects are pretty consistent with Newton's laws--planes that are hit go down, the U.S.S. Arizona sinks to the bottom of the Pacific. The booms are big and the destruction is spectacular. The effects, though, are not innovative, and in a big way this film is $150 million spent on more of the same--a formulaic summer blockbuster.

Given the right direction, script and actors, Pearl Harbor could have been a magnificent film. While the final product entertains, it is so flawed that any of the inspiration that an epic war film should foment never reaches a depth higher than the sunken Arizona.


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