While the surprise attack at the centerpiece of this big-budget war drama is impressively re-created by director Michael Bay and his army of special-effects wizards, the romantic triangle that sops up the bulk of the film is a waterlogged dud that renders the entire enterprise turgid and enervating. In a craven, obvious attempt to mimic the worldwide box-office success of Titanic (1997), Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have fashioned a love story against the backdrop of a massive tragedy. If only the filmmakers understood what made the coupling at the center of that earlier film so memorable: its two central characters were right for each other, he giving her something desperately needed. In Bay's bilious vision, the great passion that Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett feel for Kate Beckinsale and she for them seems built upon the fact that they are all possessors of marvelous cheekbones and hairstyles. Overblown and overlong, Pearl Harbor is to be commended for delivering great visual spectacle, but its soulless, bottom-line-targeted groveling for the teen audience renders the film disappointingly hollow and phony. The so-called "Greatest Generation" of Americans that fought World War II deserves better than this money-making scheme, and they've gotten it with Saving Private Ryan (1998), a film that features flesh-and-blood people making reluctant sacrifices, not cardboard cutouts whose uniforms have literally been redesigned for marketing purposes.
by Karl Williams review