From the director of Jerry MaGuire and We Bought a Zoo, Cameron Crowe brings us his new date night movie Aloha, staring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams. The story is a tale as old as time, military screw-up Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) gets to revisit his glory days and snags a deal as a military consultant for a space launch in Hawaii where his ex Tracy (Rachel McAdams) lives unhappy in her current marriage. Things are looking good for Brian – except for an Air Force security liaison in the form of annoying-yet-sexy Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), who is ruining everything. Like a typical formula film, the movie strings us along. Which girl is he going to pick? How it he going to mess it up? And then how will he fix it just before the credits roll? That’s what you pay to see, plus a Hawaiian backdrop, a lot of inaccurate space chatter, and Bill Murray looking seasoned as fuck. It’s all very Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
The film opens with some nostalgic Hawaiian footage like surfing and hula, cut with some major space launches and expeditions by NASA. The music starts as Hawaiian folk and morphs into a cyber space twinkle noise. I felt like this film really takes some obscure categories and blends them together in a way that makes me think the producers drew from hats or just googled “Top Favs of Mom and Dad in 2015” – which came up with Hawaiian vacations and space nerd stuff. As I’m thinking, I thought this was an Air Force movie; Brian throws us a bone via voiceover about his childhood love of space, failure in marriage, and nearly fatal demise in Afghanistan.
The first scene where we actually get to meet characters is a total overload. All in one swoop we get Bill Murray as a greedy and militant satellite launcher, Alec Baldwin wasting his character as an Air Force general, and John Krasinski as a non verbal Air Force pilot, who is new husband to Tracy, without any proper build-up or introduction. I didn’t quite follow their roles or their function in the movie for the first half at least – so you’re welcome for the prompt. Then ex-love Tracy, flanked by two children and next-love goo-goo eyed Ng, bombards the set. All of these people are present when Brian arrives to Hawaii for the week to seal the space deal, but it felt too rushed. The moments where I wanted to feel Brian falling for Ng and Ng falling for Brian must be in the editor’s cut, because Stone’s character immediately falls for Cooper’s character right out of the gate. My favorite characters were Tracy’s children. The young boy likes filming things from a handheld video camera, so it makes for some enjoyable shots during the movie.
Lets talk about Allison Ng’s, and how Emma Stone swings and totally friggin’ misses it. Understandably, she is supposed to be brash and bold but she comes across as severely overacting and entirely unbelievable. I was unable to connect with her character in any way, because that’s not a real person. No one behaves like that, especially not someone who’s good at his or her job, which she presumably is. Her appearance in the first scene, and disappearance from my consciousness for the rest of the film, is just the top layer of this nonsensical parfait film. A “parfait film” is how I like to describe a formula movie with all the extra crap it needs to have to be worth buying into – semi-rotten fruit like the over-ripe plot, honey like the stars, etc.
Subsequently, in the news, there has been a lot of unrest with the native Hawaiian community about the title of the film, along with a general feeling that it’s a misrepresentation of the culture. Honestly, I would have to agree. The filming rights must have been cheap enough – or the pull to show a destination film strong enough – that Hollywood decided to knock on Honolulu’s door, making the setting the granola crumble in this goofy parfait flick. There are multiple scenes throughout the film that concern itself with ancient Hawaiian customs, gods, and information in general that never takes the plot anywhere. Now that I hear about the island natives’ qualms with the title, I could almost believe that the Hawaiian cultural bits were added as a precaution to save the filmmakers’ asses. I don’t know which is worse, having a shitty portion of story line for filler, or adding a shitty portion of story line to settle down some natives. At one point in my notes I just wrote, “why do white people ruin everything?”
This film just seemed mismatched and thrown together. Everything felt so forced and it had terrible pacing issues. I didn’t laugh aloud or cry at all, which are all typical Hollywood productions are good for, to me, these days. They aren’t particularly beautiful to watch, but usually they can evoke some emotion. The plot was completely predictable, and not even cute enough for me to want to watch again. Some people may connect with the cutesy reveal attached to the end of the film –to make it less about the romantic plot and more about family – but that story line was also underdeveloped and unconvincing. This film might show up ten years down the road on TV and I’ll think to myself, hey I wrote about this once…as I change the channel.