The team behind Disney’s Pearl Harbor has blockbuster hopes for its Memorial Day weekend release. The studio aims to please both the American and Japanese markets in order to earn the $400 million (U.S.) it needs to break even. Director Michael Bay (Armageddon, The Rock) yearns for the respect that has so far eluded him. And the stars hope it rings true
for all the survivors who shared their stories.
Pearl Harbor will likely flunk on all counts. History buffe will be offended by its cartoonish portrayal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Voight) and its halfhearted dramatization of Japan’s motives and secret preparations for the surprise attack. The actual raid-40 minutes of bombs, bullets, blood and buoyant sailors-will surely prove too unoriginal and too computer-generated for thrill seekers who have seen it all before
in Titanic, Saving Private Ryan and Top Gun. And the movie’s bound to disappoint fans of Ben Affleck, who know there is more to this actor than becoming a big action hero.
Affleck did his action apprenticeship under Bruce Willis in the last Bay-directed testosterone fest, Armageddon. There he was a loose cannon, part of a ragtag team of drillers corralled to save the planet. In Pearl Harbor he’s on his own, forced to straighten up and fly right. Affleck’s charac-
ter, Rafe McCawley, and his best friend, Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), are a couple of American fighter pilots longing for action. Since the United States has yet to enter the war, Rafe volunteers to fly with the British. They take him because, as we are told time and time again, he is the best pilot in the air corps. He comes back to Hawaii a herowhich is exactly what the Americans will need on the morning of Dec. 7,1941. Though it’s hard to believe in a hero who
rallies his fellow flyers with the crude battle cry “Let’s play a game of chicken with those Jap suckers.”
Still, there is one good reason to have Affleck as the star of Pearl Harbor-his way with the ladies. He makes a corny overblown love story momentarily touching when his character returns from England to find his best friend romancing his girl-they thought he was dead. Rate’s reunion with the guilt-ridden nurse, Evelyn (Kate Beck-
insale), is the film’s one shining moment.
But then the bombs start to fall, and Rafe and Danny must take to the skies. Following the defeat at Pearl Harbor, the boys are sent to Tokyo for the retaliation mission. Here the film turns into a jingoistic monstrosity-a heavy-handed reminder that America went on to win the war. And this account of “the date which will live in infamy” is left to crash and burn.
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