THE FINAL COUNTDOWN -- AMC Carrollton, Andrews Manor, Avalon 1, Crofton Cinema, Roth's Americana, Roth's Mt. Vernon, Roth's Parkway, Roth's Quince Orchard and Roth's Tysons Corner.
What can you say about a movie that stars an aircraft carrier? Well, for starters, aircraft carrier freaks will love it.
It's doubtful that a ship has ever been photographed in more loving detail than the U.S.S. Nimitz in "The Final Countdown," a sort of combination "Time Machine" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!" in which the ultra-modern carrier and its crew are time-warped back to Pearl Harbor on (what a coincidence) December 7, 1941. They, with their advanced nuclear weaponry, see the Japanese attack planes coming and thus have the chance to rewrite 40 years of history. But it's that old time-warp dilemma: Is it useless even to try?
One thing for sure, anyone making a man-and-his-ship movie could do a lot worse than the Nimitz. It's big and pretty and bursting with Fun Facts, like: Largest warship in the world. Four football fields long and 30 stories high. Can stay out at sea for 13 years before coming in to refuel -- like dropping your child off at kindergarten, the movie's publicity kit points out, and coming back for his high-school graduation.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie isn't quite as inspirational.
There's Kirk Douglas, the manly skipper ("I'll be on the bridge. I want answers!"); Charles Durning, an egotistical senator ("Goddammit! If this weren't happening to me I wouldn't believe it!"); Katharine Ross, his loyal assistant ("I like to think I'm...more than just his secretary"). Martin Sheen and James Farentino also star, but their dialogue isn't nearly so memorable.
Funniest scene: When Ross' faithful dog (the only thing missing in this movie is a freckle-faced type) emerges victorious from the sea, having survived a machine-gun strafing and near-drowning, balanced on a handy, collie-sized plank of wood.
Clumsiest attempt to insert topicality: Ross' liberated-woman posturing. She's not just another pretty face but a dedicated public servant, she wants James Farentino to know, and comes out from behind a folding screen dressed in a sheet to tell him so.
Ah, but the Nimitz. It performs its part admirably.