From a producer/director duo famed for commercial movies comes a spectacular flag-waver that's as fun as it is empty. It's history as a McDonalds' Happy Meal - - well-packaged, bland yet satisfying, filling without being worthwhile and crammed with pounds of processed American cheese.
From the pointless characters-as-kids preamble to the repugnant My Heart Will Go On-style end-credits warble, director Michael Bay infuses the movie with his trademark kinetic ferocity. Which, for a romantic historical epic, is only fitfully suitable. Even though it's a three-hour movie, Bay gives you little cause to complain about slow sections - - Rafe's romance with Evelyn, for example, blasts from meeting to tearful farewells in a pleasing flurry of iconic `40s set-pieces. But by avoiding boredom, Pearl Harbor has no time to inject any warmth, or to characterise any of the characters. The only workable relationship, for example, is Danny and Rafe's, while Evelyn is merely a cipher in scarlet lipstick.
Surprisingly, this dynamic approach works badly where you'd think it'd be a bonus - - during the main attack. For, while the Battle Of Britain scenes seamlessly combine live footage with CGI planes and tracer fire to masterfully create the violence of mechanised death, the actual Pearl Harbour bombing is soulless - - a dazzling 45-minute effects showcase. But every time you want to linger on a sky full of planes or a battleship rolling over, Bay's restless camera cuts away.
Yet considering it's an American World War Two movie, the Japanese get plenty of screen time to establish themselves as humans. In the thrilling build-up to the attack, for example, subtitles are replaced by the voiceover of a young Japanese pilot writing to his parents. That leaves us Brits to take the real cultural hammering, coming across as defeatists who thank God that the Yank Eagle Squadron has come to fight our fight. Which, for a unit who actually shot down 73 German planes at a loss of 77 American, is nothing less than cheeky.
Yet all these are minor quibbles compared to the final pointless hour, which exists merely to end on a small American propaganda victory rather than a major military ass-whupping. This reprisal raid on Tokyo doesn't just ruin the movie's flow, it's a different film in its own right. That Pearl Harbor doesn't stop at the natural ending of President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech can only be explained by America's deification of winners. But then again, what else would you expect from Bruckheimer and Bay?
A relatively comfortable trip with no surprises to interrupt your enjoyment, Pearl Harbor is also like every war movie made during the last 60 years - - but with effects that were inconceivable even a year ago. Watch, enjoy, and then forget about it entirely.