Cinematic Releases: Aloha - Guaranteed Spoiler Free Review

Welcome to Hawaii, where Mike Stec drinks fru-fru drinks and reviews Aloha.

"Hi. My name is Emma.
I like to make this face A LOT!"
My favorite movie of all time is Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous.  There are a number of reasons for this.  It's a magical story, not just of love, but of dreams and being careful what you wish for.  Every single character to a person is well-written and played perfectly flawed by the carefully chosen cast.  To borrow a cliché, the '70s rock & roll setting is not just a character, but a force driving these people together and making them into a family.  There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place.  It is, in the opinion of not just my biased self but of the majority, Cameron Crowe's masterpiece.

It’s a bit disappointing to think about what happened to that Cameron Crowe of Almost Famous and Say Anything and Jerry Maguire--hell, even Vanilla Sky.  Somewhere along the way this man who once created deeply personal, genuinely moving works like those became the man who made Aloha.

Bradley Cooper is a failed would-be astronaut turned private defense contractor returning to Hawaii on a new job.  While there, he reconnects with old flame Rachel McAdams, and develops a relationship with spunky fighter pilot Emma Stone.  If this all sounds like your basic romantic comedy, that's because that's exactly what Aloha is.  However, that's not what it tries to be.  As far as subplots go, there's a lot going on, and much of it either overcomplicates the story or fails to serve it in any significant way.  This unfortunately exposes the emotional beats for being as flat and predictable as they are.  What could have been a simple love story in a clever and interesting setting instead collapses in on itself and fails to allow the audience to empathize.  The leads try hard, but Cooper basically gives a rehash of his Silver Linings Playbook character and Stone is more or less your standard "manic pixie dream girl."  McAdams is the only one of the main trio who gives anything close to a performance worthy of making an emotional connection.

"Emma, if you keep doing that
your face will stick that way."
All that said, Aloha really isn't a terrible movie.  The supporting cast in particular is fantastic, especially John Krasinski (the old flame's current husband) and Alec Baldwin (who shows up in exactly three scenes and steals them all).  There are a few of the genuinely funny and heartfelt moments we've come to expect from Crowe's work, though for each successful one at least two others have already fallen flat.  The setting of Hawaii is naturally beautiful, but doesn’t ultimately add much other than unnecessary complications.

Aloha had the pedigree and the potential to be great, to say something to the audience about a lot of things.  Instead, it tries to say too much and the messages get lost.  It's not a total fall from grace for Crowe, but it, like his more recent work, is a fairly significant and disappointing misfire.  Aloha aims for the heavens, and threatens to come close to doing what it sets out to do, but in the end it just gets overwhelmed and falls apart.

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-Mike Stec