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Pearl Harbor Opens: A Fitting Memorial?

The 140-million dollar summer blockbuster Pearl Harbor opened this Memorial Day weekend eliciting tears from teenaged girls, mixed reactions from veterans, and measured optimism from the Disney executives who financed the three-hour epic. As everyone surely knows by now, the movie tells the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor through the vehicle of a love story. The producers, Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay (who is also the director), apparently hope to capitalize on two current cultural trends at once. The first and most obvious trend is the rise in interest in the veterans of World War II, driven in large part by the success of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and the best-selling book The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw. Thus far, however, survivors of the attack who have seen the film are not having the sort of reaction that the veterans of the European theater had to Saving Private Ryan. That seems to be because of Pearl Harbor's focus on the love triangle between two soldier - friends (played by Ben Affleck and newcomer Josh Hartnett) and a nurse (Kate Beckensale). This love interest brings us to the second cultural trend: Hollywood's newfound interest in the adolescent girl audience in the 1990s. As some critics have pointed out, this focus on love against the backdrop of a spectacular historical disaster makes Pearl Harbor more indebted to The Titanic than to Spielberg's somber film, and the sound of weepy teenaged girls who vowed to see it again as they emerged from the multiplexes is music to the ears of Disney executives, who based on the first two days' gross, expect the second largest Memorial Day weekend take ever, second only to The Lost World. Even so, critics have offered mostly negative reviews -- Roger Ebert gave the film only one-and-a-half stars -- citing just this sort of hybrid approach, sloppily managed, as a reason for the film's failure. During filming, however, director Michael Bay was reported to have often said to his actors, "trust the box office." Apparently, for Bay and the film's financial backers, it's demographics, not narrative, or memorials for that matter, that counts.
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Date of Scout Publication
May 29th, 2001
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April 7th, 2003 at 3:35pm
Date Of Record Release
April 7th, 2003 at 3:35pm
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