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Pearl Harbor

Director:Michael Bay
Writer:Randall Wallace
Touchstone Pictures; PG-13; 183 minutes
Release:5/01
Cast:Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale

The good thing about heading to the theaters to see Jerry Bruckheimer 's WWII extravaganza Pearl Harbor is that it doesn't matter if you arrive late. Really late. In fact, the Japanese don't attack until 90 minutes into the film—right about the time when most movies are ending. And the lengthy battle sequences that follow are certainly spectacular. Vast, impressive, and impersonal. People die and we don't care, but the fights looks good.

A romantic triangle occupies various swaths of Pearl Harbor. The raffish Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and more introspective Danny Walker (Josh Harnett) are Army flyboys star-struck over the same nurse, played by Kate Beckinsale. Their love affairs hold more weight than the badly scripted ballast that explodes around them before the attack. The worst victim of this is Cuba Gooding Jr., trapped in a token role of a valiant black cook. To compensate for the lack of historical detail elsewhere, the filmmakers decided to import some racial attitudes from the 1940s in creating Gooding's part.

On the one hand, a frail and drifting script peppered by moments of decent acting make Pearl Harbor a perfect candidate for DVD rental. You can zoom to the good parts and save an hour or two. (It clocks in at nearly three hours.) On the other hand, exploding things look really nice on the big screen.


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