Steven Spielberg’s “1941”is symptomatic of the curious phenomenon particular to youngish directors who have reached a certain level of respectability, only to then inflate their creative impulses to a scale which neither their experience nor their inspiration is able to keep in a disciplined harness (Martin Scorsese’s “New York New York”, anyone?). “1941” belongs to that particularly troublesome sub-genre of colossal all-star comedies of which the number of successes are far outweighed by the quantity of talent gobbling embarrassments, though with this intended World War II period effort director Spielberg may have actually set an appreciable amount of new standards by which future generations might toil diligently to avoid. It has already been demonstrated that Spielberg has demonstrated a dissatisfaction with engaging his genuine skill at intimately evocative details that preclude an attraction to theatrically gaudy grandiosity, though this talent is most demonstrable with scenarios that are structured without distracting subplots and narrative diversions; certainly not the case with “1941” which is comprised of dozens of unrelated characters who bob and weave their way through the most tenuous of conceptually suggestive threads until they eventually intersect (with many of these moments feeling particularly forced) but without any real effect nor contributory boost in dramatic coherence. (The overabundance of nomadic characters hovering about gives the impression that scenarists Zemeckis and Gale were attempting a slapstick, mentally challenged redressing of “Nashville”.) To add insult to injury, the film has no actual plot, only a situation: the growing paranoia concerning the likelihood of a foreign invasion in Los Angeles directly following Pearl Harbor; though since this chosen subject is played out with the random abandon of thinly conceived sketch comedy- none of which is amusing on its own -abetted by desperate cross-cutting which is intended to give the illusion of energetic momentum (though the sloppiness of technique and absence of comic rhythms almost ensure that each scene seems curiously truncated as if interrupted before properly delivering the payoff), the film never for a moment achieves a sense of place or time: rather than 1941 Los Angeles, we are privy to actors merely going through their hysterical contortions on the biggest sound stage available in Hollywood.
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