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Toon Talk
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
May 28, 2001
Kirby reviews Pearl Harbor.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

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(c) Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer

Pearl Harbor
Epic Portions

A Japanese bomber soars over the ill-fated Hawaiian harbor in the early morning hours of that infamous date in history. As it releases it's deadly weapon of destruction, the camera follows it down, a 'bomb's eye' view of it's descent into the hull of the U.S.S. Arizona. Ripping through the bulkheads like tissue paper, it comes to rest in the battleship's hull, moments later exploding, dealing a crippling blow to the unsuspecting American fleet.

This creative camerawork is one of the highlights of the exhausting middle hour of Pearl Harbor (released by Disney's Touchstone division), the latest motion picture account of the devastating events that led to the United States' involvement in World War II. Played out in real time, the attack scenes have a raw intensity, a "you are there" feel that every war film following Saving Private Ryan is now obligated to have.

Unfortunately, this thrilling yet gut-wrenching sequence is bookended by two more hours of story. The film is it's own mini-saga, an instant gratification trilogy, packing three distinct movies into one very long three-hour-plus running time.

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Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale
(c) Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer

The first hour or so provides the back story, a love triangle involving two lifelong buddies-turned-fighter pilots (Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett) who both fall for the same beautiful Army nurse (Kate Beckinsale). This doomed romance owes a great deal to an earlier classic, From Here to Eternity. There is an intentional effort put into recreating the look and feel of, not the 1940s time period itself, but of the films of that era, with the 'aw-shucks' patriotism and 'doin' it for my girl back home' bravado. But a little of this goes, as most clichés often do, a long way. By the time the oh-so predictable plot twists are reveled (I'm giving nothing away by saying that the apparent demise of a certain character is negated by the fact of which actor is playing the role), I was giving into the un-American urge to scream "just bomb the place already!"

Following the sensory over-load of the titular tragedy, we are subjected to the built-in sequel: the subsequent "Doolittle Raid" on Tokyo. This tactic, of tacking on the requisite 'happy ending' where the American forces are victorious, is painfully obvious, albeit not entirely unjustified. This is, after all, an American film made by an American company for American audiences eager to reawaken their latent flag-waving genes.

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