Movie reviews: “Pearl Harbor”

Among the major U.S. newspapers, only the Los Angeles Times gives Pearl Harbor a snappy salute. Curiously, the Times‘ review is not written by lead critic Kenneth Turan but by the newspaper’s veteran movie writer, Kevin Thomas, whose taste in films generally runs to independent and foreign-produced fare, not big blockbusters. Thomas calls the film “a superb reenactment” of the events of Dec. 7, 1941 that also provides “an engaging love story” and reels off at “a brisk pace that makes this three-hour war epic seem like half that time.” The filmmakers, he concludes, “have given us a Pearl Harbor to remember.” Compare those words with these of Glenn Whipp, film critic for the cross-town Los Angeles Daily News: Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have created a movie, he writes, “that is so clichéd and boring that even the WB television network would reject it out of hand for being too insipid.” Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post argues that the movie seems to work when it attempts to evoke old World War II war flicks, but by the end, he concludes, “it becomes the wrong kind of same old story: Hollywood stupidity and callowness, writ large across the sky.” In the very first sentence of his review, Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal describes the film as “a blockheaded, hollow-hearted industrial enterprise,” and in his last sentence calls it “a movie without a soul.” Several critics praise the scenes of the attack on the U.S. fleet, but Jami Bernard in the New York Times is among the many who conclude, in her words: “An intense half-hour of cool, wall-to-wall combat sequences is sandwiched between hours of a predictable, sappy romantic triangle that is hardly worthy of the epic treatment it receives.” Or as Lou Lumenick puts it in the New York Post: “The 40-minute attack sequence in Pearl Harbor is as spectacular as you could imagine — but come prepared to suffer through hours of soggy, corny, predictable and interminable romantic drama.” But even the spectacle of the recreated raid troubles Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, who asks: “What is the point, really, of more than half an hour of planes bombing ships, of explosions and fireballs, of roars on the soundtrack and bodies flying through the air and people running away from fighters that are strafing them? How can it be entertaining or moving when it’s simply about the most appalling slaughter? Why do the filmmakers think we want to see this, unrelieved by intelligence, viewpoint or insight?”