Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Movie Review: "1941" (1979)

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Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 1979
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

It's 1941, six days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Now, Americans fear Japan's next target will be the California coast, and they may be right. A Japanese submarine is in route to California with plans to unleash an assault on Hollywood. Meanwhile, the people in California prepare for what they believe is an imminent attack. 

You would think that a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring comedy legends like John Belushi, John Candy and Dan Aykroyd, along with a solid supporting cast featuring Ned Beatty, Tim Matheson, Christopher Lee and Slim Pickens, plus a plethora other names would be hilarious. Right? Unfortunately, "1941" just isn't that funny. In fact, it's not funny at all when it comes right down to it. The movie is erratic at best and you would be lucky if you learn any of the characters names, let alone any facts about them during its run time. The moments that are supposed to be funny are based on random, silly slaptick moments and racist comments by the dozen. In fact, the American characters in this movie spit out every racial slur against the Japanese they can think of over and over again the entire film just to see what sticks and gets laughs. What few chuckles there are come few and far between and are as rare as a blue steak. Often times with ensemble casts, many of the actor's talents go to waste and they are wholly get underutilized. Here, the funniest actors, like John Candy, have almost no screen time. Others, like Dan Aykroyd, have little to no lines at all, and when they do speak, they are yelling or annoying and are everything but funny. There have been successful war comedy satires in the past like "Dr. Strangelove," which is one of the best movies ever made, so it's not like it can't be done. While "1941" has a good initial concept, the threat of the Japanese attacking California and the subsequent paranoia an imminent attack brings to the state, it lacks the focus, narrative and political commentary to make it a successful satire. The humor in the film is often what you would find in a parody rather than a satire and even that really doesn't fit, either, as it isn't poking fun at anything other than WWII itself. It is no wonder this movie is considered a flop both critically and financially. It's hard to review a movie that is so spastic and all over the place, especially when it has no aim, no drive, no direction, and really, no point.

Unfortunately with names like Spielberg, Candy, Belushi and Aykroyd attached to it, this film could wind up drawing many unsuspecting viewers into enduring this two hour suck-fest for many years to come. At least that's what happened to us. So next time you are scrolling through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or your local cable guide and happen across "1941" and are intrigued by all the big names attached to it, please don't be duped. Don't stop to watch it, just keep on scrolling, and if, against your better judgment you do decide to view it, don't say we didn't warn you.

My Rating: 3.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 3.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 32%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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