Is this the blockbuster to beat? With a budget of over $150 million - making it the most costly film ever financed by a single studio - Disney certainly hope so. Directed with zero subtlety by "Armageddon" 's Michael Bay, it's a great, bloated mess of a picture with a weak script and bland performances. But its saving grace is a recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that, for sheer eye-popping spectacle, makes "Titanic" look like a kiddies' bath toy.
In place of "Titanic" 's "Romeo + Juliet"-style romance, "Pearl Harbor" substitutes a ménage à trois comprising ace pilot Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck), his childhood buddy Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) and Rafe's girlfriend Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), a beautiful army nurse stationed in Hawaii. After Rafe goes missing in action during the Battle of Britain, Danny falls for Evelyn and has some explaining to do when Rafe re-appears. But all differences are forgotten once the Japanese turn up to bomb the US fleet.
This 40-minute orgy of explosions, carnage, and special effects will bombard audiences into submission with the same devastating efficiency the Japanese brought to their surprise assault. But once the bombs stop falling the film returns to its mawkish central romance, and our sense of disappointment is not alleviated by a protracted and unnecessary third act set in Tokyo. By then, though, you'll have had more than your money's worth.