- RatedPG13 /GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
For a film that director Cameron Crowe has proclaimed to be his “love letter to Hawaii" and with a title called 'Aloha', there is nothing remotely Hawaiian about it.
Sure, there are the prerequisite scenes of the all-too-familiar landscape that we’ve already seen in movies such as ‘Battleship’, ‘Pearl Harbor’ and TV’s ‘Lost’, a cameo from real-life Hawaii king Dennis Kanahele (who plays himself), and of course the lei (you can’t do a Hawaiian movie without flower garlands).
We expected more on Hawaiian culture and perhaps a deeper dive into the indigenous population’s struggle for independence, but what we have is a hackneyed story about space weaponry, bits of Hawaiian mythology, and a hazy love triangle masquerading as one man’s quest for redemption and love.
Anyone expecting a new ‘Jerry Maguire’ or ‘Almost Famous’ – Crowe's previous works – will be sorely disappointed.
Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a jaded former pilot who, following a botched Afghanistan assignment, has a chance to resuscitate his career with a mission in Hawaii.
Upon arriving, he meets Alison Ng (Emma Stone), a fast-talking fighter pilot acting as his handler, and she is constantly reminding everyone that she is a quarter-Hawaiian and quarter-Asian.
He also encounters former flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to the strangely silent pilot Woody (John Krasinski) and has two children.
Brian finds himself attracted to both women. Tracy represents the past; Allison offers a chance for future happiness.
Emma Stone (right) plays love interest to Bradley Cooper in 'Aloha' | Photo: 20th Century Fox
He also faces a moral dilemma, involving a military satellite. He must decide whether to honour the interests of King Kanahele or to comply with the demands of billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray, in villain mode).
GOOD-LOOKING CAST, NOT MUCH ELSE
The attractive cast is probably the movie's best selling point, and Stone is a big part of that – her character's unbelievable ancestry notwithstanding (the blonde blue-eyed pilot is supposed to be part Asian-Hawaiian and critics are having a field day singling out the cast’s ethnic homogeneity as not being representative of the Hawaiian population).
Like Joan Cusack’s Constance in ‘Say Anything’ or Renee Zellweger’s Dorothy in ‘Jerry Maguire', Stone’s Allison makes the list of interesting female characters that Crowe is known for showcasing.
Her fast-talking and ebullient personality might be grating at first, but it is what makes her character stand out.
Rachel McAdams, on the other hand, is reduced to casting dreamy looks at Cooper’s Brian, who in turn looks dreamily at his two female leads throughout the movie.
Rachel McAdams (right) plays Tracy in 'Aloha' | Photo: 20th Century Fox
Alec Baldwin as a bad-tempered general and Danny McBride as an air force colonel round out the supporting cast.
As a romantic comedy, ‘Aloha’ works. Though predictable and somewhat formulaic, it has the required optimism that love will conquer all.
What burdens the movie is the military satellite subplot with Murray’s sleazeball billionaire. It feels tacked on and only skims the surface if it is meant to make a point against privatising the American military.
Crowe can be a great storyteller, an amazing filmmaker whose characters make us believe in them and in what they're saying (recall Tom Cruise’s big heart-on-sleeve speech in ‘Jerry Maguire’), but these days, the 57-year-old seems to be cruising and the magic is somewhat lost in ‘Aloha’.
‘Aloha’ opens 4 June 2015