1941: A Review
Following Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg decided to try his hand at screwball comedy: 1941. Loosely based on the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks in December of that titular year, we follow the antics of assorted Americans as they live through that tumultuous time between declaration of war and the meatgrinder of combat. Comedy gold, right?
While not technically a flop, it was no blockbuster like Spielberg's prior films. I can see why after finally watching it tonight.
The good stuff
There were many funny scenes, many setups that paid off later, and some great lines of dialogue. Since this was made in 1979, the special effects are also practical effects, and still look pretty darn good as a result. Miniatures and mock-ups with pyrotechnics hold up well compared to CGI even today. The score is excellent, as one expects from John Williams. Casting is without flaw despite the incredible roster of protagonists, antagonists, and ancillary characters.
But I have complaints
This is looooong. 2 hours and 26 minutes is not comedy length, and the pacing is all wrong. This feels more like Gone With the Wind than a Mel Brooks movie. There is way too much wasted film between those jokes. There are so many intertwining stories that feel disjointed as the movie cuts from scene to scene, and yet those scenes are usually too long for punchy comedy.
Also, so much screaming. Screaming isn't inherently funny. I know it's a trope, and more so in the 1970s action and comedy films this parodies, but please make it stop! I'm exaggerating, of course, but not much. The credits roll to a super-cut of screams and yelling.
Lastly, just about every character is incredibly stupid. Stupidity makes good comedy, but it also kills the story when so many scenes are awkwardly watching people be dumb. Most of it might have worked with better pacing, but instead it often felt like padding for time in a movie that had already overstayed its welcome.
Note that this was made before the PG-13 rating was added to the MPAA roster. Bear it in mind when deciding whether it's worth your time or suitable for family viewing. There is some not-particularly-explicit nudity at the start when Spielberg parodies his own Jaws opening. Mild profanities and period-accurate racial slurs are uttered. One character's plot arc consists entirely of trying to get laid along with lots of innuendo in the dialogue, and another character's plot arc is largely trying to escape a lecherous lout.
So, should you watch this? Sure, why not. It ain't great, but it has a lot of great moments.
If a comedy film is going to be 2 hours long, it better be darn worth the time. To now discover that it doesn't do its job after seeing it all would be pretty annoying.
And for the plot... a little more effort into scripting may have sufficed.
I might have been less bothered by the run time had I noticed the fine print on the back of the DVD case as forewarning. As it was, it was getting late,and the movie just wouldn't wrap up!
"ah, dat is hollywood. yes, it iz hollywood"
"... and never ever press the canon actuator switch..."
Yes, stupid people do stupid things.... for s3x
So... I love this movie. Sure its long and rambles on, but as a popcorn movie. Its dumb and funny. It tells something like five or six different stories that are all interconnected, which is why its so long.
I think there is a Television cut of the movie out there that is about 1 hour and 50 Minutes. But I can't recall what was cut out.
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I doubt if I'll get around to watching this. I'd rather read a book.
It's really long for a comedy but give them a break bro it's a 1970 movie don't tell me you were expecting perfection.
You sure are right about the numerous dumb people scenes yeah it kills the comedy.
It sounds like a movie I'll see when I have no other movie to see though.
But then it's comedy we just have to laugh.
I think I will dodge this one, mostly because it feels kind of undercooked when i read about it on your review, thanks anyway and big hug :)
:( me sad now :(