1941 - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

1941 Reviews

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September 20, 2017
One star for Toshiro Mifune, another for Slim Pickens. Everything else is either unfunny or very unfunny.
September 9, 2017
So I've been curious about Spielberg's allegedly worst film for a long time now and tonight I finally gave it a watch...

This is hands down one of the most bizarre movies I've ever seen. There are a few genuinely fun sequences with noticeable technical achievement but overall this thing is just a strange mess.
July 18, 2017
A huge, slapdash, haphazard, big budget mess of a film, it's absolutely all over the place and doesnt seem like it really knows what it's doing, this is a rare misfire from steven speilberg, obviously drunk from the one two punch of the massively criticaly and comercialy succesfull oscar winning instant classics jaws and close encounters of the third kind, he was clearly in the position to do anything he wanted to do next and able to command any size budget he wished, feeling free to do something big, ambitious and crazy he made this, his only attempt at out and out comedy, set in a paranoid forties america in the aftermath of the pearl harbour attack, it involves a whole host of characters, played mostly by famous funny faces, all out to protect the american coastline from a japanese submarine (with chrisopher lee as a natzi in tow) thats targetting hollywood! and pretty much causing more destruction than the invaders have set out to do. Speilberg had the obvious intention of making the biggest, maddest laughfest of all time, even casting nearly everyone from the origional saturday night live, viewing the results it's easy to see that he just got a bit lost. It would turn out to be his only major flop, luckily he bounced back with raiders of the lost ark, winning back studio affections, and their wallets. However, despite the fact that this is a sometimes headache inducing, amazingly overblown folly of a film, theres still alot to enjoy and seriously admire, like the big dance competition scene, a giant flurry of wonderfully executed, extremely well chroreographed slapstick brilliance, and the awesome stunt work and highly accomplished practical visual effects ( especialy the incredible miniature work in the big finale free for all) All in all, very much a failure, but a sometimes amazing failure, less than the sum of it's parts but worth watching for many reasons.
June 27, 2017
Ridiculously good for its time. Still makes me laugh. A great amount of slap stick and hardly any movies from the time that are as over the top and out right ridiculous. For those that watch, understand it is a war time comedy from the start and you will love it including the amazing acting performance from John Belushi. Probably his best role.
June 25, 2017
It's safe to say this is not the film that is expected from the director who gave us the one-two punch of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In fact, considering the sheer talent involved here - Spielberg in the director's chair, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis working the script, and a huge ensemble of talented actors - it's almost baffling how the end result fails on every level. Conceptually, 1941 works well enough - a group of Californian misfits panic and attempt to prepare for another attack following Pearl Harbor - but the execution is misguided to the point where absolutely nothing ever clicks. As a war comedy, it's everything that could ever be wrong with the two genres: it's a loud and bludgeoning affair, and one whose "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach only works sporadically. Granted, the punch-lines that land are admittedly humorous, but they're few and far between in a two hour film full of slapstick misfires. All sense of character is completely swept under the rug, a bizarre change of pace for Spielberg, and a problem when the film relies on so many intersecting arcs. Like the snowball effect, this harms the performances of the ensemble cast, wasting their talents on annoying caricatures. At the very least, the production value is solid, with elaborate sets and explosions and everything else that comes with a war movie, but like the film overall, they just don't entertain as consistently as they should.
April 11, 2017
Oh jeez... what a scatterbrained mess. I was not expecting that. Definitely Spielberg's weakest effort. It's just too corny and all over the place. Shame to see such a great cast wasted.
March 26, 2017
Well, Steven tried to make a comedy into a thriller. But its just not funny. I actually enjoyed it for its action scenes. Belushi can't even make this good.
½ February 20, 2017
Frantic comedy with post Pearl Harbour US panicking in wake of a feared Japanese mainland US attack. Film has no real central character and everything seems to be disorganized chaos thrown together for two hours. Has to be regarded as a significant underachievement given the talent involved. The ventriloquist dummy provides as many laughs as any of the actors.
October 26, 2016
Ridiculous and hilarious.
July 1, 2016
An unfairly maligned farce that is enjoyable, hilarious and full of love for old movies and Americana.
½ May 11, 2016
I'm not altogether sure that this movie knows what it is. In tone, I think it's aiming for satire, but that doesn't completely work, so it heads toward screwball comedy, but that doesn't work either. It's hard to know where this sits. Also, the movie tries to be a lot funnier than it actually is, which is annoying.
There are some good ideas here, but unfortunately, they are thin on the ground, and very few of them land properly.
½ April 6, 2016
Hadn't seen this since I was a wee lad. I remembered it not being funny. It isn't.
February 24, 2016
Madcap comedy has some funny moments, but ultimately its very dated and neither the gags nor storyline are strong enough to make this worthwhile.
Resonant Line: "General Joseph W. Stilwell: This isn't the state of California, it's a state of insanity."
February 5, 2016
Another stupid movie. I love Spielberg's work, but he really sinks low here.
January 26, 2016
Finally got around to watching this after more than 30 years. Not bad, a pleasant waste of time with some great set pieces, but as a whole it doesn't hold together well. The highlight is the 7 brides for 7 brothers brawl at the USO. Spielberg had mentioned wanting to make a musical and I welcome that idea.
½ January 22, 2016
Even Spielberg accepts this is one giant turkey. Pitched throughout at 'too much', it's an over-choreographed, under-plotted, self-indulgent attempt at sending up the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbour, with veteran screen stars like Robert Stack, Warren Oates, Toshiro Mifune Slim Pickens and Elisha Cook Jnr playing second fiddle to emerging Saturday Night Live comedians like John Candy, Dan Aykroyd and the genuinely gifted John Belushi. Makes you yearn for Eric Rohmer.
Super Reviewer
½ January 9, 2016
After a gigantic Diplodocus sized dump of success with his first two big mainstream movies, one about a large fish and the other about some annoying little brat that gets kidnapped by aliens in ice-cream cone shaped UFO's, the one and only Spielberg had complete and utter control over everything. Strangely enough, much like his best mate George Lucas, this power went straight to his head and he came up with this odd little feature. Still to this day I'm not really sure what his intentions were or whether I actually like this or not, it certainly doesn't seem or feel like a Spielberg movie, not in the slightest.

The plot is an odd mixture really, set in 1941, it basically sees a Japanese submarine led by Toshiro Mifune and Christopher Lee (a Nazi), on course to try and hit the western coast again just after the recent Pearl Harbour attack. The US is on high alert after the bombing, paranoia is running amok but there is a real risk of another attack. During this time we follow multiple storylines involving various characters within the US military that eventually all combine at the finale. You have the unhinged John Belushi as Wild Bill Kelso who flies around in his Curtiss P-40 fighter and...errr little else really. I kinda get the impression Spielberg mainly stuck him in because he was a big star at the time and was virtually a package along with Dan Aykroyd. Meanwhile, a tank crew consisting of Aykroyd, John Candy, Mickey Rourke, Treat Williams and Frank McRae are on their way to a military base or just on patrol due to the recent attacks (not really sure), and getting into all sorts of trouble. Sitarski (Williams) is after a young girl who is also the target of the young whippersnapper Wally (Bobby Di Cicco), both of whom are trying to take her to a local dance contest.

Meanwhile!! Major General Stilwell (Robert Stack) is trying to control everything from the general public to his inane troops in the midst of this supposed pending doom from the far east. There is also a love story going on between Tim Matheson and Nancy Allen that flits in and out of the other sub plots, Slim Pickens is kidnapped by the Japs and interrogated on-board their sub, Ned Beatty and Lorraine Gary get an anti-aircraft gun stuck in their backyard, and Eddie Deezen is stuck atop a ferris wheel overlooking the coast for the pending Jap invasion. In short, the entire thing is a horrific muddle of plots that intertwine with each other, and basically they all focus on one thing, the Japs invading the west coast and everyone going crazy with paranoia over it. The only twist is, the Japs actually are and do invade the west coast confirming everyone's paranoia, but it then leads to even more batshit happenings as everyone tries to combat them.

Apparently this mishmash of a plot was actually based on some real events from the era. This probably explains why its such a mess, because they based the movie on several different events. The first being the supposed and infamous 'Battle of LA' whereby LA apparently came under attack from a mysterious object in the sky. No one knew what it was, but they shelled it anyway, because hey...Merica! Other events were the bombing of an oil refinery in California, an incident where an anti-aircraft gun was indeed stuck in someone's backyard, and something called the zoot suit riots. Basically lots of migrants flooded the State from Mexico to help the war effort, as did lots of marines and sailors, aaand they all ended up fighting each other. Twas called the zoot suit riots because at the time zoot suits were trendy and many young Mexicans (and others) wore them.

In all honesty this movie is such a mess, you really have no clue what's going on and why half the time. Sure there are young blokes in uniform fighting over dames and other crazy blokes in uniform doing silly things, but that's it. The whole thing is like one long long large action sequence, or riot, it doesn't stop! The plot sinks below this constant barrage of high octane hijinks including a lot of fisticuffs, big dance routines, cockpit tomfoolery, sloppy romance, mass destruction of everything, lots of gunfire and loads of screaming into the camera. There is no way in hell you'd think this was a Steven Spielberg movie, not a chance, its like some cheesy, cheeky, high school flick filled with jocks and nerds in a constant raucous.

Now even though most of what you see is an absolute headache of noise, it all looks terrific. Overall it may not come across like your typical Spielberg movie, but in terms of visuals and special effects, it definitely has that classic old Spielbergian (dare I even say...Lucas-esque) vibe going on. All the period sets, props and costumes are wonderfully detailed and highly authentic looking. You have all the classic cars, planes, machinery, electronics and weapons spot on from the era too, everything from the radios, the local diners, to the decorations in the dance hall, it all looks gorgeous, far too good for such a throw away flick like this really. I must also give much kudos to the model work on display towards the finale, a full scale town mockup I think, also included were a lot of decent bluescreen shots (for the time), solid interior (exterior) plane and sub sets and I think some matte painting work going in places. The full gamut of special effects wizardry going on which you come to expect from these old action movies, but they still hold up very well.

The cast is clearly another big key element and hook with this movie, its like a who's who of the time. You have some epic actors like Lee, Beatty and Mifune alongside crazy comedians like Candy, Aykroyd and Belushi. Much like the movie its a real mishmash of talents that don't really gel together in my opinion. Mifune is clearly taking his role as a Jap sub commander pretty seriously, Lee is also coming across as an eerie Nazi officer (kinda like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'), but then Spielberg sticks Slim Pickens in a scene with them. Its also evident that the studio wanted more of Aykroyd and Belushi because of their SNL fame at the time, unfortunately there isn't really anything for them to do and it feels like they are just crowbarred in for exactly that reason...their SNL fame. Seriously, Belushi doesn't need to be here at all, his character is good for like...one visual gag. Most everyone else is young and upcoming admittedly so it doesn't feel like overcrowding in that (big name) sense, but there is clearly way too much going on, too many characters jockeying for space, too many little plots going on. Also far too many silly cameos that just weren't needed, it felt like some kind of big variety show or Spielberg giving all his mates sweet little plum bit parts for no real reason.

In the end this movie really feels like a misfire, I'm honestly not sure if Spielberg really knew what he wanted to do here. Its suppose to be a zany comedy but its not really very funny at any point, although its zany enough. Plenty of action and pep as everything zips along but its so disjointed and uneven, I'm still not really sure what Wild Bill Kelso was supposed to be doing, or why he's even in the film, and apparently Christopher Lee's Nazi got killed by being thrown into the sea? I guess he couldn't swim? One issue that springs to mind is the fact everything this movie is based on (and sends -up) is the history of California, and virtually unknown to most. Sure you could say that about many things but the events this movie are based around feel even more minor than usual, as though its a big in-joke for the people of California (those in the know). Alas many probably haven't got a clue so it just comes across as a daft, meaningless screwball comedy that just isn't funny. I guess one last plus point now would be the nostalgic factor, looking back at this amazing ensemble cast, won't see anything like that again.
December 13, 2015
There is no way you cannot enjoy the performances given in this movie. Dan Akroyd, John Belushi and a ton of other faces you will recognize. Released in 1981, 1941 is centered around the hysteria created around WWII in the U.S. but in a VERY witty and comical way. Lots of fun! It did not do well when released,as far as box office revenue. However, some of the humor was frankly above many people's level of morality in 1981. I liked it then. I like it now.
Super Reviewer
½ October 29, 2015
Wildly incomprehensible, and incredibly downright out of this world, 1941 has some bold satire intentions coming from the likes of Steven Spielberg. But sadly, the comedy aspect of the film is pushed way too far it almost offsets the entire narrative, that along with too many characters the film focuses on. It may as well be the biggest career low point for Spielberg, nonetheless it has an excellent cast and can be enjoyed much more when viewers intentionally do not take this film seriously as it may as well doesn't take into any of its scenarios seriously.
October 3, 2015
A true sleeper that many people have never heard of and certainly don't know it was directed by Spielberg. A comedic tour-de-force with a huge cast of talented actors that give terrific performances. Very funny, with both laugh out loud jokes and those that make you chuckle and appreciate the writing of Zemeckis and Gale. Also, a great musical number and massive fight scene during the movie's climax with hundreds of extras, including a young James Caan (uncredited).

The only movie with both Dan Akyroid and John Belushi in it, as well as comedy legends John Candy (Spaceballs), Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles) and Warren Oats (Stripes). You need to see this movie now!
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