Men of Honor (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Looking back on it, it seems surprising that Fox pinned its Oscar hopes on this flimsy clichéd movie.

Oh, its heart is in the right place. Carl Brashear, the first black man to be accepted into the Navy's diving school, who returned to work even after becoming an amputee, was certainly a hero, and deserved to have a movie made about him, and this one touches all the politically correct bases. 

If good intentions were enough to make good movies, Kevin Costner would be Orson Welles. They're not, and he's not. 

Heart to head. Heart to head. I have the right idea. I need the brainpower to support it, Do you read me? Can you read me, head? 

Call incomplete. The script brings out all the usual military clichés. The drill instructor cliché. The racist cliché. The racist who comes to respect an individual of the race he used to hate cliché. The really loopy racist cliché. The ol' going back to work with two broken legs cliché. The ol' "we're not sharing a bunk with that .... um... man of African-American heritage" cliché. And so forth.  

Actually, you might think this is a spectacular movie if you haven't seen that many movies, because the clichés might seem fresh to you, but I was groaning. 


I wouldn't advise you against taking your kids to see this movie. It is an excellent kids' movie because it teaches them the right things in simple symbolic terms that are easily understood. They will also probably find it uplifting and moving because they won't think the cynical thoughts you and I think when we feel we're being manipulated by a formula. I have to warn you, though, that the film is rated R, and makes liberal use of salty seafarin' talk. In other words, they say "fuck" a lot. Aside from that, it's essentially a g-rated Disney film.

And the Hal Holbrook commanding officer was the worst cartoon racist yet. Isn't it amazing that the Navy did so well in World War Two with guys like this in command positions. He's crazy, he's racist, he's stupid, and he is all of those things blatantly. Y'know, a lot of members of my family have served in the Navy, and my dad's brother even made it to Lieutenant Commander. Now despite his engineering degree from Cornell, he was a complete dork, and various oddities in the military system did allow him to creep up that high in the ranks, but the Navy is not stupid. Even in wartime, when men were in great demand, they never put him in charge of anything important. They let him wear his dress whites to many fine social occasions, and let competent men run things. And he was obviously more competent than Hal Holbrook in this movie.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • Full-length commentary by cast and crew

  • documentary on the real Carl Brashear

  • "first look" featurette, trailer, storyboards,  and a music video

  • 11 deleted scenes and an alternate ending

You know when we will know that black people have really achieved equality in this country? When the black guys can be portrayed with flaws, and conservatives can be portrayed as multi-dimensional human beings instead of loonies and stupid hatemongers and Southern sheriffs with mirror sunglasses. Because those portrayals give us an easy excuse for the racial problems in our society. They let us forgive ourselves and blame it all on a few stereotyped hatemongers who unjustly persecuted the noble Sidney Poitier black men. 

Oh, yeah, we had slavery and segregation because of a few hate-filled crazies were controlling things. 'Tain't so, McGee. We had those things because they were deeply supported at every level of white society by people who thought of themselves as decent churchgoin' folk with proper family values. Slave owners included some of the most brilliant men of history (Thomas Jefferson comes to mind), and segregation was supported by a lot of our dads and granddads, men we loved, men who loved their families and were viewed by society as completely decent men, not a cartoon crazy like Montgomery Burns, as portrayed here by Hal Holbrook.  

The evil was inside of us, not outside of us.

And it still is.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Apollo 58.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 44% positive overall, but a much more impressive 61% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.9, Apollo users 64/100.
  • With their dollars ... it wasn't a smash, hit, but it took in $48 million domestic on a $32 million budget. It maxed out at just less than 2200 screens. Fox hoped it would be an Oscar winner, but it wasn't in the cards.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+.

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