It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
It's not fair to say Steven Spielberg's "1941" lacks "pacing." It's got it, all right, but all at the same pace: The movie relentlessly throws gags at us until we're dizzy. It's an attempt at that most tricky of genres, the blockbuster comedy, and it tries so hard to dazzle us that we want a break. It's a good-hearted, cheerfully disorganized mess that makes us appreciate "Dr. Strangelove," just a little bit more.
It takes place in the opening days of World War II, as rumors of a Japanese invasion sweep the west coast and a real Japanese submarine finds itself somewhere off Long Beach. California's in the grip of war fever, every red-blooded young man wants to be in uniform, the dance halls are jammed to the music of Glenn Miller, and up on Hollywood Boulevard the zoot-suiters are rioting.
Spielberg apparently originally conceived some of this material as a series of set pieces, and there's a sequence in the dance hall that works wonderfully: While lookalikes for the Andrews Sisters go berserk at the microphone, servicemen and their girls get into a dance contest that degenerates into a cross between a brawl and the big dance number in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
Because Spielberg allows this sequence to continue until it finds its own rhythm, it has a nice zany feel to it. But most of the other stuff in "1941" feels forced together chaotically, as if the editors wanted to keep the material moving at any cost. The movie finally reduces itself to an assault on our eyes and ears, a nonstop series of climaxes, screams, explosions, double-takes, sight gags, and ethnic jokes that's finally just not very funny.