Oh dear. A good cast is set adrift in a messy, muddled “Aloha” that tries too hard and tackles too many stories.
Do not be fooled by the amusing, breezy trailer focusing on the romantic comedy aspect, because it leaves out the major military and political elements crucial to the overstuffed plot.
It is mystifying and sad to see writer-director Cameron Crowe crash and burn yet again. After his pinnacle “Almost Famous” in 2000, his work has been uneven at best (“We Bought a Zoo,” “Elizabethtown” and nearly unwatchable “Vanilla Sky”). Has the Oscar winner and critics’ darling lost his Midas touch?
This question looms large as “Aloha” starts out promising, with snappy repartee and appealing actors, but it quickly becomes apparent that Crowe is in desperate need of a good editor.
What might have looked good on paper is a hard sell for even the most lauded contemporary performers, who gamely try to create characters but seem befuddled and fall back on their own personalities. Then the confusing main plot and its subplots soon fray into many strands.
What it’s about
Three-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) is Brian Gilchrist, a former military hotshot turned private contractor whose life has become a train wreck. Sent on a mission to Hawaii, where he once worked in the U.S. Space program, he creates more messes. His former flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams) is now married with two children. He has unresolved feelings for her, and also falls for his watchdog, a rising Air Force star “Ng” (Emma Stone).
The space program and a wealthy businessman Carson Welch (Bill Murray) appear to be strange bedfellows, and we will eventually find out the real story behind this attempted partnership — but by then we will have gone through tangled relationships, a question of paternity, lost souls, a boy with a video camera, a girl who takes hula lessons, enthusiasm over a heavily decorated lawn at Christmas, event-planning for a Gate blessing, and modern military projects, not to mention Hawaiian nationalists, folklore and apparitions.
Danny McBride (“Eastbound and Down”) and Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”) excel in supporting roles as Air Force brass and John Krasinski (“The Office”) continues to impress in second-fiddle roles, notable here as the taciturn pilot Woody, who is Tracy’s husband. Cooper, McAdams and Stone are always worth watching, even if the romantic triangle isn’t believable. Jaeden Lieberher, so good as the lonely kid in “St. Vincent,” is fine in a smaller role.
But Bill Murray as a corporate mogul? He’s miscast, and the role is hard to swallow anyway.
A few scenes sparkle with wit and show glimmers of what we love about Crowe’s deft, offbeat writing. Of course he always puts together a terrific soundtrack. The vistas of Hawaii are gorgeous.
What Doesn’t Work
What is this movie really about and why should we care? By the time the joyless “Aloha” limps to its sudden-turn conclusion, we are frustrated and disappointed. The lack of focus and the cramming of too many cutesy asides are its ultimate downfall.
1 1/2 stars
out of 4
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin
Rated: PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments