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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.75%
Average: 8.33%
Pretty Bad: 9.38%
Total Crap: 6.25%

3 reviews, 78 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Jeez! Lay off this poor, underrated movie already."
5 stars

One of the most satisfying thing about reviewing movies is that you get to defend the ones you love. Steven Spielberg's 1941 is a film that has been ridiculed, vilified and just plain hated since it was released in 1979. Yes, it's way overdone and quite cartoonish, but I think it's damn entertaining.

Hey, blame Universal. They're the ones who kept throwing money at this project when it was widely known throughout Hollywood that it was a mess. But guess what? It's funny. Sure, it's a misfire and it lost A LOT of money, but it's really a wild ride. Young Steven obviously bit off a little more than he could chew on this one, and sometimes it threatens to explode like a tube of toothpaste in a microwave oven, but let's examine the good points:

1. The story--A small California town near Hollywood, in the grips of war hysteria, believe they are being attacked by a Japanse submarine and a fleet of airplanes. Turns out they're right, but it doesn't really matter here. What matters is slapsticky humor and a bunch of destruction. I mean a LOT of destruction. (More on that later.)

2. The cast--John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Tim Matheson, John Candy, Ned Beatty, Robert Stack, Nancy Allen, Treat Williams, Warren Oates, Christopher Lee, Toshiro Mifune, Slim Pickens, Eddie Deezen, Perry Lang, Bobby Di Cicco, even Michael McKean and David Lander (Lenny & Squiggy) show up together. 1941 offers some great comedic characters in just over-the-top and ridiculous situations. (Would you a plane just to sleep with Nancy Allen?)

3. The spectacle--The USO dancing scenes are wonderful, Spielberg's Rube Goldberg-like contraptions are great, everyone screaming things like "What the HELL is THAT?", and it looks like they're having fun with this movie. (Indeed, it is well documented that 1941 was NOT a "fun shoot".) This movie offers some things that you've never seen in a movie before, and won't ever again. Which leads us to....

4. The destruction--Everything in this movie gets destroyed: Beautiful mountaintop houses, giant ferris wheels (in a classic scene), four or five airplanes, dance halls, movie theaters, Santa Claus, and especially people. There are pratfalls, huge brawls, nasty fistfights and air battles. (Hey, it was co-written by Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis, and John Milius. These guys would go on to somewhat successful careers.)

5. The rest--There are car chases, motorcycle chases, and Japanses soldiers disguised as Christmas trees (in the director's cut.) There's Slim Pickens being forced to poop at gunpoint, chubby Wendy Jo Sperber desperately trying to make out with Treat Williams (who gives a wonderfully sleazy performance), and nerdy Eddie Deezen as the world's most annoying ventriloquist. There's Ned Beatty shooting an anti-aircraft gun through his house, Dan Aykroyd frothing at the mouth, smooth Tim Matheson trying to get laid, and John Belushi sweating and flipping out every five minutes.

6. My reasoning--I've stated before that movies you love as a kid you often feel very passionately about as you get older. An 11-year old movie nut doesn't know anything about narrative or a director in over his head. I watched this with wide-eyed amazement when I was a kid, and you will too. Although it's a satire, I wouldn't classify it in the same vein as Airplane! or the like. It's more like a Mad Magazine version of the war. Yes, it's a mess, but it's a big fun mess that deserves a better fate.

Disclaimer: It's tough for a movie like 1941 to earn any new fans, because of its reputation as a monumental bust. This is no Howard the Duck or Ishtar, you know. (By the way, neither of those movies are as bad as the critical armageddon they both received, either.) I think Spielberg was due for some backlash thanks to the brilliant work he did on Jaws and Close Encounters, and 1941 was certainly an easy target. More people should like this movie.

Plus, you have to love a movie that has a tank drive through a paint store, come out the other side looking like a rainbow, then having it drive through a turpentine plant, only to end up spotless. Just a brilliant and wonderful waste of Hollywood money.

Yes, I give it five stars. Guilty pleasures are one of the best things in life, and 1941 will always have a welcome spot in my movie collection. And Spielberg knew what he was doing: When you close your movie with a picture of each cast member screaming at the top of their lungs over the credits, well that's just fun. Oh, and John Williams contributes one of the great musical scores of the past twenty years in this movie, period.

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originally posted: 12/30/99 07:50:11
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User Comments

5/02/18 Charley I couldn't agree more. We need to lobby for a 40th anniversary reissue on the big screen! 5 stars
3/23/15 D. The R. The loudest, stupidest, and unfunniest assault on the ears since comedy was invented. 2 stars
1/12/15 Steve It's a blast. Turn down your snob knob and get ready to laugh. 4 stars
7/05/14 thomas its not a raiders dry run!!!? its a loser big budget rip off of Animal House! 1 stars
4/29/14 Bob Don't listen to what anyone says watch this movie it's great. But be sure to get the direct 5 stars
6/09/13 s One of my all time guilty pleasures 5 stars
6/01/13 Marie Logan A huge misfire!! What a waste of money and talent. 1 stars
12/25/11 Mark Durland Just fun, and lots of it. Don't worry, film festival types. We know you don't like fun. 5 stars
10/26/11 George League I loved it too! Extremely funny, great dance numbers too. 5 stars
10/10/10 Joe Schmo Will be looked back on in MUCH kinder ways by future generations. Esp. the director's cut! 4 stars
5/19/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Sometimes funny, mostly loud and annoying. 2 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Misfire from Hollywood's top Hostess twinkie baker. 1 stars
12/06/09 Wayne 'Wild Bill Kelso' George OTT and as funny as hell..1941 is pure class.UK DVD available 28/12/09 5 stars
11/21/09 blues_for_jesse This is Spielberg's ode to It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World 4 stars
6/30/08 Grant My personal favorite film 5 stars
5/26/08 Carol Loved this movie since I first saw it years ago. 5 stars
11/05/07 StinkyWicket Love it. The scale, the characters the sillyness, brilliant 5 stars
3/10/07 CHAS I'm a crazy ass SOB. 1941 features my kind of people! Critics - craw back into your holes. 5 stars
2/23/07 Steve_CEC Great cast - funny script - big big effects - superb film! 5 stars
7/19/06 adam the biggest pile of unfunny crap i've ever seen . Its not a hidden masterpiece atall. 1 stars
2/10/06 Chip Underrated Comedy 4 stars
6/27/05 Cheif mrs brody is in it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
4/26/05 tatum Tons of mayhem and destruction, but not all that funny 3 stars
2/02/05 ralph a true movie expert 32 yrs old a true classic is goldrush,duck soup,modern times,not this rusty 3 stars
12/10/04 Rusty "Pipes" Heyman This is a true classic. All those critics don't understand a true classic when they see it 5 stars
11/22/04 javed elahi i m 22 yers old n i like sexy movie 3 stars
10/13/04 Paul Sewter Silly, but very funny - shame the DVD is not available in UK 5 stars
8/27/04 john collins This movie will one day be recognized as one of sielbergs best films and be a classic. 5 stars
7/07/04 chimpy121 Fun as hell and well-made. 4 stars
4/29/04 Patrick awesome 5 stars
2/12/04 Kevin Overlooked Belushi film 4 stars
12/25/03 paul heslep Spielberg explores his (still young) style. A very solid comedy 5 stars
12/18/03 * An Idiot Who Loves Dan Aykroyd* FUCKIN' SWEET! I LOVED IT IT WAS THE GREATEST! JOHN BELUSHI ROX! 5 stars
12/07/03 john a bit long and overblown but better than its reputation 4 stars
11/30/03 *A Monotonous Creton who loves Tom Hulce* john rulz. aykroyd rulz. this damn movie rulz. screw DarkHorse!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/11/03 Simon Beal Slap-stick comedy at its best! 5 stars
10/25/03 Al Baston There are scenes that are mind blowning!!! 4 stars
9/23/03 MellCat_Slayer_de_Jake "the stars at night are big and bright" oh, KELSO, you were the FUCKING BEST!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/21/03 CAT BLUES it was sweet frank tree is such a fuzz wad kelso was nuts ...who gives a horse shit... #1 5 stars
8/31/03 Kitty Kelso u think i would use KITTY KELSO 4 nothing???!!! 5 stars
8/30/03 Kitty B. "TAKE THAT TOJO!!" doi, belushi kicked ass!! 5 stars
7/18/03 EZE pretty amusing evn after the first time u watch it, a bit long tho 4 stars
5/18/03 David Keeling Funny,not as bad as its rep. 4 stars
4/12/03 Michael One of the funniest movies I have ever seen 5 stars
12/15/02 Eugene Donaldo Favorite comedy spectacular 5 stars
12/11/02 jay saw this movie when it was released n 1979 and loved it ever since.FUNNY!!!!!! 5 stars
9/27/02 Tom Fleeman This was some funny shit! 4 stars
5/12/02 Allen Forster Loved it especially the ventriloquist dummy "Jeezus it's a Jap sub!" 5 stars
5/01/02 lecomte A very good moment ! 5 stars
2/11/02 Steve Weiss A classic - Belushi, Akyroyd, Candy - it is AWESOME!! 5 stars
1/20/02 Sean 1941 was an extreamly funny movie! 4 stars
11/18/01 Romaniac This movie's hilariously funny! A good piece of parody and slapstick. 5 stars
10/17/01 Hitler's 3rd Testicle Okay, so it's not terrible. But it IS pretty boring. Wacky sunts and elaborate production 3 stars
9/20/01 Luca great movie great belushi 5 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat Surprisingly not Steven Spielberg/Dan Aykroyd/John Belushi/John Candy/Rob Zemeckis fare. 3 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk John Belushi is GOD! This was back when Spielberg had balls. 5 stars
7/30/01 Anthony Mancuso Fucking Amazing! 5 stars
7/05/01 Luis Roizman one of the best movies of all times 5 stars
6/20/01 Judith Latham I saw it when it came out (I'm in my 30s) and it was awful and brilliant at the same time 2 stars
6/15/01 Matthew Bartley Underneath all the mess there's a great movie struggling to get out... 3 stars
6/12/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Yes, it's bad. But it's goddamn funny. 4 stars
3/03/01 campibis laughed so hard my side hurt for three days 5 stars
2/19/01 Steve in Prague GREAT flick..probably John Williams BEST score, even better than JAWS...TERRIFIC MOVIE 5 stars
2/06/01 Classicdog Belushi enough said! 5 stars
12/10/00 robbie vinder just nice, you know, it's just nice 5 stars
6/28/00 Chocise A classic spectacle in the mode of "Mad, Mad World". The USO dance sequence is superb! 5 stars
11/04/99 christopher hofer I can not believe that 1941 got such terrible reviews, I love this movie. Aside from the de 5 stars
7/27/99 Ron Great movie! Sure its lowbrow, but pretty hilarious nonetheless. 4 stars
7/26/99 Erwin An hilariously over-the-top, hysteric comedy 5 stars
7/26/99 Biondo It's the best film of S.Spielberg, the best for ilarius, the best for the special effect 4 stars
4/16/99 little jerry Not particularly funny but seen on the big screen it really is quite something to behold. 4 stars
4/14/99 Thethug266 This was pretty funny. A war comedy that bombed. What, America can't make war comedy's?! 4 stars
4/08/99 Neil Frankland underated and misunderstood comedy with plenty of redeeming features 3 stars
4/07/99 Cool Thing I bet Speilberg still has nightmares about this one. 1 stars
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  14-Dec-1979 (PG)


  02-Feb-1980 (PG)

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