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"Pearl Harbor"

Directed by Michael Bay.
Written by Randall Wallace. 
Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  5/28/01 


I went over to the Uptown last night for the 11 PM showing of "Pearl Harbor" with Dave Bell, my roommate Chuck and his fiancée Teresa, and Dave's friend Reggie.  I go with my brother and Reggie anywhere I can, to hear the laughter and smack-talking that they provide whenever we see a movie that has the chance to be spectacularly bad.  Since all of you know the plot of this film, who's in it and who it is by--the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay teaming that brought you such "classics" as "Bad Boys" and "Armageddon"—I will skip explaining it.  Rather, I will break the film down into three hours, the ridiculous length of this film.  Since many of you saw this over the weekend--and, will go to see it whether I like it or not anyway--I AM GOING TO GIVE AWAY COUNTLESS FACTS ABOUT THE FILM.  So, if you like surprises, stop reading now.

Hour One--Crock of Shit Love Story

I have to admit, the initial pairing of Raef (Ben Affleck) and Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) was fairly romantic, halfway believable and lightly comic.  The first half-hour of the film covers how Raef and Evelyn meet and begin their courtship, which takes place in January of 1941.  When Raef has to leave to help out the British war effort abroad, his goodbye sequence with Evelyn felt real and this provided for some real tension (for about four minutes) when Raef goes abroad and helps the RAF shoot down Axis planes.  But, when Raef gets shot down, you don't believe for one second that he is dead, but you are anxious to see how Evelyn will live her life...especially when she begins being courted by Raef's best friend Danny (Josh Hartnett) about four months after Raef's supposed death.

This is where the movie began to tailspin for me.  This love triangle business has nothing to do with anything I care about if I go to see an explosion-filled war movie.  The lines spoken by Evelyn and Danny during this sequence are hilariously poor; they fall into bed--oh, I'm sorry, fucking parachutes--so quickly that you are laughing by the time Evelyn ironically states to Danny the next day "Danny...I'm afraid we're taking things too fast!!"  Of course, when Raef comes home, he is shocked to see that former love Evelyn has left him, and that his best friend has just robbed him.  This sequence was so boring that it put Chuck, literally, to sleep.

Hour Two--Pearl Harbor

Friends, the meat-and-potatoes of "Pearl Harbor" comes during the middle hour, which features the thrilling attack by the Japanese--whoops again, the "Japs" or "Jap Bastards", which is uttered a movie-record 155 times during this hour--on the American base in Hawaii.  The scenes that don't feature the love triangle in the first hour on the Japanese planning of the attack are very well done and interesting, showing the perspective of the war committee that plans out the surprise invasion.  Those pay off here as Bay directs incredible action sequences depicting death and chaos on the early morning of December 7, 1941.

And, while not as intense as things you will find in "Platoon" or "Saving Private Ryan", the PG-13 violence in this hour is sure to make you at least a little uncomfortable as you watch numerous shiphands, Navy officers, pilots and civilians get ripped apart by bombs, torpedoes, and Zero gunfire...all before they even fire a shot back at the invading planes.  And, how about those explosions?  Wow, wow, wow.  On the Uptown's screen, it was a beautiful display of mayhem.  The chase-plane camerawork--one has to assume all of those shots were added on a computer--is spectacular, and the bombing runs are all well shot.  In addition, after Raef and Danny come back together over their romantic rift to shoot down enough Zero planes to drive them off, the chaos at the military hospital was scary...and, as Evelyn (who is a nurse in the film) is patching up the wounded and marking potential patients as "critical" or "fatalities", you get the feeling that you are there as you realize you have 20 doctors and hundreds of wounded soldiers and you are trying to figure out who deserves treatment the most.

Hour Three--Who wrote this film?

Strangely, the movie does not end with the battle mentioned in the title of the film; rather, it ends in China!!  Rather than just accept that we lost that day, Bay and screenwriter Randall Wallace decide it would be better just to have a way for it to look like we should end the film on a happy, they tack on an extra HOUR of film to wrap up the love triangle, send Raef and Danny to Japan in B-17s to bomb Tokyo, and kill off Danny's character because they have been foreshadowing it for two hours now.  (Really, when they brought Danny home in a box, were any of you surprised?)  This led to much an uncomfortable shifting of my ass in the chair half a dozen times wondering when the film would end.  Luckily, Alec Baldwin is in this film, and ever since he started acting, Baldwin has been one of my top five actors.  His work in "Malice"--while not the best film--is at the top of my list, because of his great "God Complex" speech near the end of that film.  Baldwin--as the leader of the B-17 bombing run--has the best line in "Pearl Harbor" when someone asks him what he would do if he was in a plane going down over the heart of Tokyo...the way he delivers the word "bastard" is quite possibly the best in movie history.

And, you wanna talk about a waste?  How about Cuba Gooding, Jr., as one of the only characters that happened to be a real person that fought at Pearl Harbor?  His character has four scenes.  His "character development"?  Scene 1:  He boxes, therefore he is tough.  Scene 2:  He gets stitches for boxing but makes conversation with Evelyn, therefore he is sensitive.  Scene 3:  He serves food to his CO, therefore he is loyal.  Scene 4:  He mans a deck gun and shoots down a Zero, therefore he is a hero.  The end!  And, besides President Roosevelt's (Jon Voight) butler George, he is the only black character in the film.  Ugh.

The middle hour saves the film, and this makes the theater-worthy, because the home experience won't bring it home like the theater will.  But, the rest of this film ain't too good.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09