In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_life

Life

Life struck me as several cuts above “meh” but never made me jump out of my seat.

Thumb_power_rangers_ver22

Power Rangers

Trashy, goofy, and surprisingly sincere, this superhero fantasy is better than you expect but not as good as it should be.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

1941

1941 Movie Review
  |  

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.

Advertisement

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.

The closest thing the movie has to a central character is John Belushi, as a P-40 fighter pilot who flies up and down the coast looking for Japanese and finally crash-lands in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. The boulevard has earlier been the scene of several other buzzings by military aircraft, in scenes involving lots of special effects thatt must have been difficult to create but come out so disorganized that we're more confused than amused. With the exception of a few high points like a runaway ferris wheel, the special effects in "1941" seem disorganized in general: If we don't have a clear idea of what the big moments mean to the plot, how can we know if they're funny?

That leads to the real problem with "1941", I think: This movie was never thought through on a basic level of character and story. All sorts of things are happening, but we're never clear why they have to happen and we haven't been told enough about the characters to care if they survive or not.

Everybody races around like people caught in a Jack Davis drawing for "Mad" magazine. Comic talent is wasted. Belushi hardly has 25 words of dialogue in the whole movie, and is called upon only to look manic, run around frantically, and play the slob in the cockpit. At one point, scurrying bandy-legged here and there, he's even repeating a piece of business from "National Lampoon's Animal House." Why not? Nobody's given him a new character to play.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Mysterious Beauty: A David Lynch Retrospective Comes to IFC Center

A celebration of director David Lynch's filmography in anticipation of an upcoming retrospective at the IFC Center in...

“Marvel’s Iron Fist” is Netflix’s Biggest Original Series Misstep

A review of the fourth original Marvel series for Netflix. And the worst.

Man on the run: the haunted grace of "The Fugitive"

A classic thriller that moves with a sense of purpose.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus