Well, it certainly looked good on paper. With a script and direction by Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) and a cast that features hot as napalm Bradley Cooper as well as Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski and Danny McBride, Aloha seemingly has all of the right pieces in place to deliver the sort of heartfelt, romantic comedy we haven’t seen in a long time. Yeah, well… best laid plans and all that...
It is stunning how formless, frustrating and just plain bad this film is. Murky in intent and unfocused throughout, the blame for this misfire rests firmly on Crowe’s shoulders, as key scenes were either shot and forgotten or perhaps 30 pages of the script went missing, and that fact went completely unnoticed. 15 minutes in, I felt as though I had wandered in an hour late and had missed a good chunk of the film, as key elements of the characters’ backstories are missing while their motivation is unknown for large sections of movie. Not only does this make it hard to get involved in the story but it proves impossible to become invested in the characters, something that never occurs while watching this piece of narrative futility.
Cooper is Brian Gilcrest, a former Air Force engineer who returns to Hawaii where he’d established a reputation as being one of the Armed Forces’ best and brightest. He is now in the employ of a private contractor, Carson Welch (Murray), whose corporation needs the blessing of one of the island’s native tribes in order to build a platform for a satellite project the Air Force is helping get off the ground. Friends with the head of this group, Gilcrest is on hand to broker a deal between the indigenous populace and the corporate interlopers, something that proves more difficult than he’d anticipated. Complicating things for him is the constant presence of his military liaison Allison Ng (Stone), the very personification of “ramrod,” as well as being reunited with his former love Tracy Woodside (McAdams), who he left in the lurch a decade ago.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I may have gotten a couple of details wrong in this summary, for as I said, things are a bit murky. Not only does the film lack key details but it introduces plot strands that are never developed, sees relationships shift far too quickly to be plausible and contains many events that, rather than developing organically from the script, seem dropped in for convenience sake. Nothing really connects here, as narrative bridges are missing that would help explain characters’ motivations and intentions, leaving us removed from their plight, completely disengaged from all that’s happening.
Without question, Crowe is a fine filmmaker – you don’t make Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous by accident – but his last few efforts have lacked the fire necessary to separate his movies from the pack. Elizabethtown never really came into focus and We Bought a Zoo had the edge of a wet paper towel. Yet, Aloha is worse in that it’s just half a film, a malformed movie he must have hoped could be salvaged by the charm of his cast. They struggle mightily and the lack of a romantic spark between Cooper and Stone dooms the story’s love triangle from the start.
While Aloha is a well-intentioned mess, its ending is a shameless attempt to manipulate the audience with a heart-tugging moment that comes out of left field. Nonsensical and coupled with another scene meant to give us closure, Crowe obviously wanted to leave no plot strings dangling, wrapping up this affair in a way that’s far too tidy and convenient to be believed. Bad enough the film is poorly done, but going out of your way to give your audience a happy ending and insulting their intelligence in the process is inexcusable.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.