1941 Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ June 10, 2014
Steven Spielberg's star was already assured by the time he made this, this petite monster, garish, crude and loud, hobbled together with elements from other films (like some of the cast of Animal House, some of the madcap of The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, an altered version of Benny Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing, that wacked out cowboy pilot from Doctor Strangelove, etc., etc., etc.), all in an hope to achieve "zany!" ... which he misses by that much. Pass.
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2013
Steven Spielberg's 1941 is an underrated comedy that is far better than what most people have said about it. The film has its weak points of course, but nonetheless is an amusing and entertaining picture that is sure to amuse anyone looking for a good little flick to watch. 1941 is a good film, one that has enough good material to make it worth seeing. Spielberg has made better films of course, but this is an enjoyable, underrated film from him. I found that there were quite a few comical moments on-screen, even if it wasn't hilarious, it was still nonetheless a funny, entertaining and watchable film that shouldn't be passed up. Although funny, at times, the material could have been better in order to make it a better, more memorable film. Enjoyable for what it is, almost to the point where the gags try to outdo the audacious scope of the film. In turn, some of the comic bits do suffer, and it's not as funny as it should be. I laughed quite a few times, but I really expected something more out of the film. 1941 boasts a great cast of talented actors that elevate the sometimes lacking material and Spielberg's direction more than makes up for what's missing in the movie. If you're looking for a great comedy, you won't find it here. The film, like I said, provides laughs, but leaves a lot to be desired after the credits start to roll. Worth seeing if you love Spielberg, just don't expect a highly memorable comedy. 1941 is fun, but flawed, but in the end, it's not as bad as what everyone has said about it.
Super Reviewer
½ April 30, 2007
A movie that at best should have been an hour and a half is dragged out for 2 1/2 and eventually wears the viewer's interest out. There's some nice period detail in the costuming and some sets but Spielberg didn't seem to be able to make whatever point he was trying to get across comedic or otherwise up onto the screen, this is one of his weakest efforts. A waste of a very impressive cast.
Super Reviewer
May 15, 2011
Steven Spielberg's 1941 it doesn' t funny, but a few parts of the screenplay saves the film. The script of the duo Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale make some mistakes, the worst is the lack of comedy. Thus how the character of Tim Matheson and Nancy Allen, the ending went everybody laughs, and more few, are some of the most embarrassing scenes. The best is the direction of Mr.Spielberg, that commit some mistakes, the acting of Belushi and the great Toshiro Mifune. 1941 is full -lengh, super production not so bad, a satire with great pontetial, but dispite have great comedians, the material isn't funny and doesn't honor the presence of Belushi, Aykroyd and Candy.
Super Reviewer
½ June 15, 2006
Considering the type of movies Steven Spielberg made about World War 2 in the last twenty years it's almost impossible to believe he is behind this action comedy. Following several characters through the chaos, paranoia and confusion of West Coast America after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the film refuses to take war or even itself serious on any level. Everything is loud, hysterical and way over the top. That goes for characters like Belushi's Wild Bill as well as the action scenes that tailspin into pure chaos. The audience was not ready for that in 1979, and neither were the critics. But you can't help but admire Spielberg for being so silly for once, mocking own films like Jaws or Close Encounters while having a dozen of really deranged characters stumble through the havoc. That's pretty stupid most of the time, quite hilarious at others, but always extremely entertaining. It also helps that this film oozes the nostalgia of the early Spielberg films.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
May 14, 2012
The general rule with Steven Spielberg is that he is at his best doing light-hearted, popcorn-friendly fare like Jaws, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones. When he attempts something more serious, like Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan, he starts with the very best intentions but quickly gets bogged down or loses his nerve. But there are a couple of his so-called 'fun' films which are the exceptions to this rule. One is Hook, his bloated and cynical retooling of Peter Pan, and the other is 1941.

Before fans of the film start rushing to its defence, it should be pointed out that Spielberg has publicly admitted that his film wasn't any good. When interviewed by Mark Kermode for a Culture Show special to mark his 60th birthday, he said regarding 1941 that he took responsibility for what he deemed "a complete failure", and that afterwards he had needed to go into "a Betty Ford clinic for undisciplined filmmakers". That Betty Ford Clinic turned out, of course, to be friend and producer George Lucas, with whom he developed Indiana Jones.

1941 was made at a time when Spielberg was seen as a wunderkind who couldn't fail. Having learnt his craft on Duel and The Sugarland Express, he had taken North America by storm with the monumental success of Jaws in the summer of 1975. The huge commercial success of both Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped to gloss over the fact that both projects overran considerably on time and budget. While 1941 wasn't technically a flop, grossing $92m on a $35m budget, its indulgence marked a wake-up call to audiences, Spielberg and the studios that employed him.

You know you're in trouble when the opening scene of a film finds the director parodying himself with wanton abandon. The scene in question features a woman running into the sea naked and skinny-dipping - not only are there the same movements as Jaws, but it's the very same actress performing them. The Jaws music comes in, and then instead of being sucked down by a shark, she ends up suspended on a submarine's observation pole, being ogled by a Japanese sailor shouting "Hollywood!". It's the kind of joke that might have made it into Porky's two years later, but which isn't befitting of Spielberg's pedigree or sensibility.

We can see in 1941 hints of everything that made Indiana Jones so great. There is the battle-related slapstick, the pantomime depiction of Nazis, the impressive vehicle-based stunts, and the action set-pieces where characters weave in and out of each other. Some of the jokes which made it into Raiders of the Lost Ark were the result of Spielberg failing to shoehorn them into 1941, the most famous being the joke about the folding coat-hanger. But while Raiders and its sequels have sustained B-movie charm to compliment the extravagant spectacle, 1941 relies solely on its zany tone to carry us forward. After 20 minutes the initial pleasure of the zany tone has gone and every joke falls dead flat on its face.

The central problem with 1941 is that Spielberg left out the two things that any comedy film needs: a good, efficiently told story and interesting characters. It is ironic that a director who has become known for his heart-warming sentimentality should have crafted a film with no discernible emotional core. What's even more ironic, and depressing, is that Spielberg managed to assemble such an impressive cast of comedic talent and then found no good use for any one of them.

The film is a big collection of outrageous characters, all of whom deserve their own film. We can imagine John Belushi's hard-drinking pilot tearing across the Pacific Ocean, leading the US attack while generating much ire among his pun-pushing superiors. His character is the love-child of John Wayne, Major Kong and Bluto from Animal House; like the latter, he has no manners, little self-respect and a bumbling physicality. There are further hints of Dr. Strangelove in the mad general played by Warren Oates, who like General Jack D. Ripper is convinced of an incoming threat and well past the point of no return. The love triangle or square between Stretch, Wally, Betty and Maxine is a whole film in itself, especially when you take account of Wally's talents as a dancer. And there is the frustration of Captain Birkhead (Tim Matheson, another Animal House graduate), who attempts to seduce Donna by exploiting her fetish for aeroplanes.

What we have is not so much a film as a collection of scenes and characters from a dozen films, which cross each other's paths completely at random and without any form of internal logic. Marshalling all the different stories together is like herding cats: there is no much separating the characters, and so much plot contrivance, that even Robert Altman would have struggled to hold it together. There is no central protagonist we can gravitate towards, we don't get enough time with any of the characters, and when we do get time they all seem either too stupid, too wet or too thinly-drawn to care about.

When it comes to the actual comedy of 1941, it's few and far between. The big gag about a panic surrounding a Japanese invasion of America is given so little screen time that it may as well not be happening. You get the sense that the characters would have behaved this stupidly and anarchically whatever the circumstances, which in turn makes them even less appealing. The recurring images of stocking tops and cigars, coupled with the dim-wittedness of the Japanese submarine crew, smack of a director aiming for the broadest laugh possible, resorting to adolescent Freudian imagery because he cannot handle anything more refined.

Because it never makes the effort to build the comedy, either around a key event or a certain character, the tone of 1941 becomes progressively more hysterical until it becomes totally unbearable. In the last 20 minutes much of the dialogue is reduced to shouting and gurning as characters suffers huge, oh-so-hilarious pratfalls. The best example of Spielberg's poor record for out-and-out comedy is to be found in the destruction of Ned Beatty's house with the anti-aircraft gun. Rather than timing the shells and throwing in a few witty edits, the punch lines are shoved in our faces before the joke has got its boots on, and the whole piece is paced so poorly that we really couldn't care less about the house or anyone in it.

Faced with this constant inability to construct a joke, or maintain any kind of focus, 1941 becomes nothing more a boring procession of special effects. Despite the involvement of Robert Zemeckis at both a script and production level, there is no integration of the effects into the narrative, something that Zemeckis has made his trademark. The explosions, the property destruction, even rolling the ferris wheel along the pier - all of them just pass us by like noisy and annoying tumbleweed.

The only sequence in 1941 which is even faintly on the money finds Major General Stillwell (played by Airplane!'s Robert Stack) sitting in the movie theatre watching Dumbo. Throughout the screening soldiers come up to him to warn him about the carnage outside, but he just wants to sit and watch the film until it's over. It's not a great joke in and of itself, but it's the one time in the film where a joke is used to build up a character and carry part of the plot forward. Or it could just be a case of desperation on our part: seeing Dumbo on screen reminds us of how good it is, and we focus on that to distract from the mess surrounding it.

1941 is a two-hour headache of a film and a shoe-in for the title of Spielberg's worst film. No matter how much goodwill we have towards him as a director, or how bad sections of Hook are by comparison, there is so little here by way of redeeming features that the only sensible responses are anger and depression. Both of these are lessened by the quality of what came before, and the knowledge of what was just around the corner. But on its own terms, outside of this context, it is a disaster of epic proportions.
Super Reviewer
½ June 14, 2010
First off: my review was over the extended director's cut of the film.

Well, let's see here: this is a star-studded, slapstick screwball farce concerning the citizens of California entering a stake of panic, pandemoneum, and paranoia in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack after the (rightfully) think that the Japanese are trying to invade the U.S. mainland.

This sounds like odd stuff, and it is, but it's even more so since it was not only a critical and commercial failure, but also something Spielberg had never done before or since, making it turly the proverbial turd in the punchbowl that is his filmography.

This film gets ripped on all the time, and yes, it is a mess; it's overlong, extremely indulgant, and much of the humor is hit and miss. However, it's not actually as bad as it is made out to be. The concept is kinda funny, but ultimately, as a film, it sucks because of the way it was handled. Had this been played straight, it would have been much better. It also might have worked far better had someone who excels at this sort of thing helmed it instead.

It is long and ridiculous, but I wasn't bored to tears or anything. To appreciate this, you really need to be in the mood for something mindless and goofy, and really set your perceptions of Spielberg aside. SInce this film is so unlike all his other films, it actually works as a curiousity piece, even if it is all over the place. As a concept it's not bad. It just sucks that the way it is executed here cmes up short.

While not a complete piece of shit, this film is bad, and doesn't completely work, but it's still kinda entertaining. Let's just be fair and call it a noble failure and be done with it.
Super Reviewer
March 17, 2011
Been a while since I've seen this one, still its the best comedy to come alone since Abbott and Costello. John Belushi's greatest moments. The scenes with the dummy on the ferries wheel will leave anyone laughing, If you haven't seen this and need to brighten your sprits this is your movie. 5 Stars
Super Reviewer
½ August 24, 2010
Except for a small following of fanatics, Spielberg's "1941" is almost universally regarded as an utter failure. Well, I have to admit that, while I am no fanatic, I do count "1941" as one of my guilty pleasures. I'll come right out and say it, though--the film is indeed a failure. But it is a spectacular one. And I must say that the full length version shown on TV, and currently available on DVD, is much better than the original theatrical version. At least the story makes more sense, in any case. And I believe that the folks who like it enjoy it for the film it could have been. Because, you see, the screenplay was a masterpiece.

There is really only one reason why this film was a failure: Stephen Spielberg was the wrong man to direct it. Anyone can point out that his visual style at the time was wrong for the film--too hazy and "flossy", like "Close Encounters." What it needed was an easy to read cartoonish look--kind of like the look Stanley Kramer gave this film's closest ancestor, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

Also, for a film renowned for it noise and action, it is in reality very slowly paced. There are many spots to be bored.

This was due in most part to Spielberg's misunderstanding of how to handle comedy as an art form. It is obvious that he abdicated his directorial command when it came to the actors, concentrating his skills on the visuals and effects (and even much of that effort was inappropriate to the task at hand). He had no idea why any of the material was supposed to be funny, so he just let the actors run wild in hopes that they knew. So, each of them tried desperately to be funny, all in totally different--and sometimes conflicting--styles. And, in almost every case-they failed.

A much better choice would have been to have all the actors play their parts "straight." As George Roy Hill supposedly told a confused Paul Newman during the filming of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid": "You don't need to be funny. The story is funny. You just act." What joy there is in "1941" come from the huge spectacle and tiny intricacies of the screenplay. Ned Beatty, Tim Mattheson, Nancy Allen, that other blonde chick, etc--none of them are naturally funny people--and it is painful to watch them try to be so. The overacting and mugging drags out scenes which should have been played super fast and snappy, like the real screwball comedies of the 1940s. The dialog scenes should have been kept at a minimum, because, by design of the screenplay, the actors are only interesting as props in the Rube Goldbegian plot they inhabit.

It is ironic that "1941" is the rare film that actually would have been improved if the dialog and "characterizations" had been cut to a minimum so we could get to the explosions and noise more quickly. I mean, do we really care to see and hear the lame interactions between Tim Mattheson and Nancy Allen as they each try to "be funny"? Hell no! Just let us know enough to make it somewhat believable when they end up screwing in a pilotless plane over Hollywood as a crazed John Belushi attempts to shoot them out of the sky! The situation is what is funny--the people are just bogging it down.

The only natural comic in the bunch--and the only actor who should have been given free reign to be wild--was John Belushi. The rest of the cast should have followed the leads of Toshiro Mifune and Robert Stack and the wildness of what was going on around them would have been much funnier.

Too bad the studio didn't trust Zemeckis, now a famous director, to begin his filmmaking career with this movie.
Super Reviewer
July 29, 2010
i didnt find this funny at all just boring. D
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2009
Watching this Movie, I didnt believe it was Steven Spielbergs piece.
Steven Spielbergs Movie often made me cry, but I never expected to LOL nearly the whole Movie DIRECTED BY SPIELBERG!
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2007
Too bad Spielberg didn't make more comedies because this is brilliantly funny!
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2007
I thought it was funny though way overlong.
Super Reviewer
½ January 14, 2007
Not-so-funny comic account of Californian hysteria following the Pearl Harbour attack.
Super Reviewer
January 10, 2007
Steven Spielberg was on the crest of a wave when he made this movie; he thought he could do no wrong and went absolutely insane with over indulgence. Having said that, he still knows how to entertain and so there are some enjoyable moments in amongst the excess. Which is more than I can say about a certain series of prequels. Mentioning no names...
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2006
A lot of great cameos.
Super Reviewer
½ January 30, 2013
Steven Spielberg's World War II epic 1941 is a piece of junk that's ridiculous stupid and tasteless. An all-star cast has been assembled, and includes Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Christopher Lee, John Candy, Slim Pickens, and Ned Beatty, which only adds to the tragedy of the film. The story follows a paranoid California coast that's awaiting a Japanese invasion in the days following the Pearl Harbor attack in December of 1941. The satire, and the comedy all around, is done in poor taste and has no real poignancy to it. The story is a jumbled mess at best, and few of the characters are likable. Failing on nearly every level, 1941 is an epically disappointing film that misses the mark by a mile.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
July 12, 2011
But, it's a spoofish comedy written by critically acclaimed drama fimmaker Robert Zemeckis and directed by dramatic spectacle-maker Steven Spielberg. How could this possibly go wrong? Well, it didn't but it certainly didn't go right either. It's not bad, but it is a - as said best by Chuck O'Leary - "loud, chaotic, overproduced comedy that's often more destructive than funny". The film suffers from a lack of development, expendable scenes, forced scenes, slowness, plenty of fall-flat jokes and some sense of humor inconsistencies. It has the makings of a bad movie, but it never fully hits that mark.

The film is extremely flawed and while it's certainly not good, it's not bad. Before I say what saves the film, allow me to touch on the other strengths. The film is supported by a deal of entertaining spots, fair cinematography, fine production designs, dazzling effects and... well... that's all I got. The film really does boast fine technical value, but in a way, to its detriment. As dazzling as the technical value is, it drowns-out the film, making it rather noisy and somewhat hollow. Really, the film has far more flaws than strengths and what strengths it does have work against the film to an extent. Really, what saves the film is but one simple thing: there's nothing to hate about it.

Man, I was hoping to hate this film, because I had a great negative review in mind. I have got to start watching more bad movies. Well, until then, allow me to say that "1941" is an overblown mess with little to praise, but little to hate it for, leaving it to simply rest as a passable watch, though nothing that will keep you from saying "I wonder what else I could have done in that time."
Super Reviewer
June 7, 2008
When it comes to Pearl Harbor comedies, the score is Michael Bay 1 - Steven Spielberg 0
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2009
Luckily this disaster didn't stop him from making 'Raiders'!
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