5.5 out of 10
Bradley Cooper as Brian Gilcrest
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Former Air Force pilot Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to his former base in Hawaii as a consultant to negotiate a deal with the natives to build a new Air Force base with the perky Captain Alison Ng (Emma Stone) assigned to him as a “watchdog.” While there, Brian reconnects with his ex Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to his former colleague “Woody” Woodside (Krasinski) as he tries to keep things professional with Ng while appeasing both his clients and the natives.
Cameron Crowe still seems to be trying to get back to the height of acclaim he received for earlier films Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, something that seems so apparent while watching his latest movie, a fairly straight-forward romantic comedy that’s marred down by trying be something more.
We meet Bradley Cooper’s Brian Gilchrist through an opening monologue that explains his history in the military and why he left it for the private sector, which has brought him back to Hawaii as a consultant. He’s quickly placed with Emma Stone’s military liaison Captain Alison Ng in the typical fashion of a “meet cute” romantic comedy, which is basically what this is.
Crowe continues to be one of the sharpest writers working today in terms of dialogue, but Aloha is more witty than it is funny, and at times, it just feels like he’s showing off that he can get away with some of the dialogue. In fact, there are so many “Cameron Crowisms” in this movie that it gets frustrating that the story and characters don’t live up to the dialogue they’re given.
Emma Stone can do no wrong in my book, and she’s quite delightful in a role that might have gone to Reese Witherspoon or a much younger Diane Keaton and been far more annoying for it. Bradley Cooper, on the other hand, is all wrong and he doesn’t give Crowe anywhere near the performance he gave David O. Russell in the much stronger Silver Linings Playbook, and his character isn’t nearly as interesting either. No, Brian Gilchrist doesn’t seem like very much of a stretch as Cooper basically tries to stay afloat against the perky Captain Ng.
Most of the stuff with McAdams as Brian’s former love who is trying to raise a family with her new husband (Krasinski) falls flat, but for whatever reason, Crowe feels like he needs to make it a bigger part of the movie and keeps returning to it. We do have to give Crowe some credit for giving John Krasinski an almost silent role, which is used as a joke effectively once and isn’t as funny the second time.
The rest of the cast seems wasted, especially Murray, who tries to act as weird as possible to make his character more interesting, and Baldwin, who has one funny scene but that’s about it. Danny McBride should have been more in this movie because he could have definitely livened it up. But like when actors appear in Woody Allen’s recent movies, he seems to be neutered by wanting to stay beholden to Crowe’s words.
When you add to that Crowe’s flagrant hippy-dippy anti-war message and all the Hawaiian spiritualism, you get a convoluted mess of a movie that tends to only work during Stone and Cooper’s early flirting, but rarely at other times. Because you constantly know where things are going, it’s hard not to be cynical of the inevitable ending.
Crowe has followed Alexander Payne and Adam Sandler by falling in love with Hawaii, providing all the glorious shots of the island vistas that are incumbent with essentially a travelogue film, but it doesn’t work since eventually we have to get back to the actual reason why Brian is on island, which is to accommodate an industrialist (Murray’s character) trying to weaponize a satellite launch. We learn fairly early about Ng’s heritage being a quarter Hawaiian, which makes her believe strongly in the beliefs of the natives, but she’s also introduced as a dedicated soldier so it makes little sense that she’ll go against her orders to rail against the launch of a satellite into space. Because Stone is the best part of the movie and her character just doesn’t seem particularly realistic, it detracts from any of the added depth Crowe is trying to bring to the genre.
As is always the case, Crowe’s soundtrack is exceptional with a lot of interesting choices, but more than usual, Crowe relies on the music like a crutch to make up for weak and often erratic storytelling.
The Bottom Line:
As someone who has appreciated Crowe’s departures into different territory like Vanilla Sky and even We Bought a Zoo, Aloha seems more like “A big huh?”