Aloha (2015) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments.
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, John Krasinski, Danielle Rose Russell, Alec Baldwin, Kaeden Lleberher, Bill Camp, Dennis Bumpy Kanahele
Director: Cameron Crowe
Screenplay: Cameron Crowe

Review published May 29, 2015

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Serena) stars as Brian Gilcrest, a former Air Force pilot and current military defense contractor who is hired by a billionaire industrialist named Carson Welch (Murray, to help facilitate the launching of a communications satellite in the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where he used to reside some years back.  While there, he runs into his former girlfriend Tracy (McAdams, A Most Wanted Man), who is now married with children, and engages in a flirtatious relationship with an Air Force captain, Allison Ng (Stone, Birdman), who has been tasked with monitoring him during his five-day stay on the island.

The normally sure-footed Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) writes and directs this romantic comedy that has a number of interesting ideas and never finds a way to connect them in a satisfying way.  Some might have anticipated it could be less than a knockout, given that there had already been buzz generated around the film when Amy Pascal, former top exec for Sony Pictures, had her emails leaked during the Sony hack of 2014, the contents of which included some not-do-kind comments about how Aloha was turning out.  Then there were cast changes (Reese Witherspoon and Ben Stiller dropped out) and delays, eventually culminating in blood in the water as far as critics are concerned regarding a troubled production.  Of course, that same amount of skepticism didn't keep these same critics from raving over Mad Max: Fury Road, so I can't say that we're a particularly biased bunch, but it certainly doesn't help.

I won't go so far to say that Aloha is a disaster, but it sure has several key story threads that aren't played particularly well, starting with the main one regarding a satellite going up into space, which becomes a bit sinister in its intent when, in the movie's most poorly conceived scene among several, one of the characters stumbles into a room where some home video footage is being played that changes opinions on its worthiness to launch.  The movie's climax surrounding this is one of the most ridiculous ones I have seen in many a movie, and any hope I had that the film could recuperate from it was extinguished by an even more inept aftermath scene.  I won't go into spoilers, but other subplots involving fatherhood and taciturn spouses also fall flat.

Nevertheless, some may not mind, as it is beautifully shot on location in gorgeous Hawaii, and does manage to capture the more laid-back atmosphere of the state, as well as its ability to bring out a certain spirituality among people who may not have had much of any at the time they first stepped on the islands.  You could knock the film for being over-romanticizing about Hawaii, but, in all honesty, there should have been more of that woven into the story and less of the ham-fisted attempts at jokes and the utterly unconvincing relationship stuff.

With its lack of solid laughs, romantic entanglements that never feel quite right, and too many idiosyncratic supporting characters whose motivations are rarely made clear, Aloha plays like a film that is made by people who consistently changed their mind about the direction the film should go just about every day of its production.  As such, we're never able to get a firm foothold into just what the movie is supposed to be about, and, along with a main character who is about as equally ill-defined and as big of a mess as the movie he is in, it fizzles when it should truly soar, despite a quality cast.

If this goes down as Cameron Crowe's biggest misfire, I'll be OK with that given the usual stellar results when Crowe gets all his ducks in a row.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo