By Mark Ramsey | 2000/04/21

U-571 is the reason why popcorn exists.

And I don’t mean to toss like a salty, buttered depth charge at that idiotic, inconsiderate lady with the crying infant who takes the empty seat you were eyeing as a footrest in a theater with lots of spare space and not one inch of it soundproofed.

But I digress.

I can’t say I haven’t seen vast portions of this plot before, but U-571 has enough state-of-the-art to make it all fresh again.


Take a lesson from star Matt McConaughey: Up scope, down pants, load Grateful Dead, arm bongos, ignite weed, and dive, dive, dive!

Matt clearly gets off on being a heroic leader of men. And who is Matt’s hero? Well, according to the Associated Press, it’s “The Incredible Hulk.” No joke! Somewhere in the afterlife Bill Bixby is giving General Norman Schwarzkopf the finger as the late Winston Churchill comments dryly, “so much for our finest hour.”

The truly heroic thing about U-571 is the way this movie rescues Matt’s career. ‘Til now, the RV of Matt’s life was careening down the C. Thomas Howell highway, approaching the Corey Feldman scenic overlook just past the sign reading “Andrew McCarthy, this exit.”

Matt’s the Executive Officer to Captain Bill Paxton, who spends every moment on-screen engaged in the acting exercise called: Be-A-Stiff-Wooden-Board. Is Bill playing a mime? At least he has a sense of humor, judging from his t-shirt which reads, “I’m with Bill Pullman.” Bill suits up like a Gorton’s fisherman, which is perfect because now someone can dip him in tartar sauce and toss him into the microwave until he starts to sizzle.

WWII is raging. Matt and crew must capture an Enigma code machine from a damaged, limping German U-boat. Fortunately, the Germans are at a decided disadvantage, since Matt’s team is more clever and has dramatically better hair.

In fact, the Enigma was first captured by Brits, not Yanks, and certainly not reefer-mad Yanks with bongos. But forget the historical inaccuracies – the real fiction here is the notion that David Keith is tougher than Harvey Keitel! You may remember David – he’s been D.O.R. since Officer and a Gentleman. And D.O.R.’s not “Dropped On Request,” it’s “Desirous Of Roles.”


Check out the guys on this Sub. The cute-factor is so high, the Navy must be recruiting Backstreet Boys for special song-and-dance ops. Do these sailors give the order to dive or ‘N Sync?

Look for an all-cleaned-up Jon Bon Jovi as a sailor whose decapitation was left, ironically, on the cutting room floor.

In a scene designed to teach the dangers of the deep, one sailor crushes an egg to demonstrate the squashing effect of water pressure at tremendous depth. Why an egg? Because Christina Aguilera’s leather pants hadn’t been born yet.

U-571 comes to you from legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis who, twenty years ago, created a gigantic King Kong which was the Bill Paxton of its time. Add a monocle, a top-hat, and a guy with his hand up Kong’s back and it could earn a Hollywood Square or host a show on MSNBC.

For once, the FX are absolutely seamless – until a certain ship explodes and it looks like some digit-head taped a big blowup over a Carnival Cruise Line.

There are many educational take-home lessons in this movie:

1 The Germans couldn’t hit a Sub even if the Sub stuck its thumbs in its ears and went nya-nya nya-nya-nya

2 The British Empire evidently didn’t exist until 1956 or so

3 If the Internet had been around in 1942, you’d have to twist wheels to use it

4 A Ship should never line up with a Sub. Always approach from the side, for God’s sake.

5 When a Ship does line up with a Sub, it should not be surprised when a torpedo races toward it

6 Every Sub under attack pretends to be dead and creates a phony debris field which, from the air, looks exactly like Faye Dunaway

7 Matt in love with his crew is way more convincing than Matt in love with Jodie Foster

8 Sonar and Matt’s reflection operate on the same frequency

9 Two screws propel a boat. More than two screws propel Charlie Sheen

U-571 is a rock-em, sock-em, good old-fashioned thrill-ride. Hold your breath and dive, dive, dive in.


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