A somewhat interminable misfire, 1941 follows a whole host of characters as they prepare for an impending Japanese invasion of California in the days after Pearl Harbor. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg has infused 1941 with an overstuffed and thoroughly frenetic feel that does, at the outset, hold a fair degree of potential, as the movie’s incredibly fast-paced environment is perpetuated by a continuing emphasis on unapologetically silly gags and entertaining cameo appearances. (This is, after all, a film boasting appearances by John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Tim Matheson, Ned Beatty, and ToshirĂ´ Mifune, among others.) It’s equally clear, however, that the picture grows less and less interesting (and tolerable) as it progresses, with the narrative’s decidedly unfocused, slapdash nature resulting in an almost total lack of momentum that’s nothing short of disastrous (and it doesn’t help, either, that the movie is entirely devoid of any real laughs). Spielberg’s gleefully freewheeling approach to Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis’ rambling screenplay doesn’t help alleviate the increasingly unwatchable atmosphere, to be sure, and there’s little doubt that 1941 will test even the most patient of viewers with its special-effects-heavy and virtually context-free second half. It’s ultimately impossible to label the movie as anything less than a completely ineffective and hopelessly inconsequential trainwreck, and one can’t help but wonder just what Spielberg and company set out to accomplish with this meaningless exercise in rampant excess.

* out of ****

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