"Dark Blue World" may remind a few viewers of "Pearl Harbor," and not in a good way.

In fact, if anything, this Czech-made drama demonstrates that American filmmakers haven't completely cornered the market on hackneyed World War II romances — though to be fair, at least this film isn't as insultingly dumb as last summer's blockbuster.

However, "Dark Blue World" isn't much more interesting or affecting, either, thanks to a rather unconvincing love triangle subplot that becomes the dominant story thread. What's so disheartening is that there's a much better, more-promising story being smothered under the cliched romance. And worse, the film also comes from a director, Jan Sverak (1996's Oscar-winning foreign-language drama "Kolya"), from whom much better things were expected.

The film's title refers to a line in a song sung by Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hadek), a young Czech pilot who finds himself allied with RAF fighters in the fight against the Nazis. The shy youngster becomes increasingly confident over English skies, thanks to help from Franta Slama (Ondrej Vetchy), a more experienced Czech pilot. Not too surprisingly, the two become the best of friends, though their friendship is tested by their feelings for Susan (Tara Fitzgerald), an Englishwoman whose husband is missing in action.

Bookending this story are prison scenes in which an older Franta details his "betrayal" of Karel. These sequences are based on real-life experiences of Czech heroes imprisoned after the war by the Communist government for supposedly "collaborating" with the Western world.

Frankly, this material would have made a much more interesting film. Though some of the aerial sequences are exciting, as portrayed here, the war scenes are unconvincing, despite the best efforts of actors Vetchy and Hadek.

It doesn't help that Fitzgerald has absolutely no chemistry with either of her supposed romantic interests, and the film's pacing is quite sluggish.

"Dark Blue World" is rated R for war violence (aerial duels and some brawling); brief partial male and female nudity, as well as glimpses of nude photos; gore, scattered use of mild profanity, simulated sex and some sex talk. Running time: 114 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com