Picks and Pans Review: 1941

updated 01/21/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/21/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

It's never been considered a vintage year. But if you thought December 7 was a disaster, wait until you see what happened six days later! Imagine, as director Steven Spielberg has, that a Japanese submarine is sighted off the coast of California. All hell breaks loose, right? As a study in excess, this so-called "comedy spectacular" is unrivaled in recent American cinema. There are a few laughs, yes—for $33-plus million, one expects a little aisle-rolling. But more often, scenes are simply interminable, such as one marathon dance-hall brawl. Some sequences exist solely for one throw-away joke—like the tank that hurtles through a paint factory and then a turpentine factory, emerging good as new. No one in the huge cast has much screen time, though John Belushi, as a loony daredevil pilot, and Warren Oates, playing a paranoid general, manage to stand out. Spielberg falls back shamelessly on his previous movies (the best bit is ripped off from Jaws), nor is he above borrowing from Star Wars or The Russians Are Coming, either. All that might be forgiven if this attempt at humor achieved anything like the sheer terror of Jaws' or Close Encounters' sense of awe. The only sense here is of extravagant waste of time, money and talent. (PG)

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