It isn’t always a good idea to listen to negative buzz surrounding a film, but when it comes from the head of the studio distributing it…well, time to perk up those ears. Cameron Crowe’s latest comedy Aloha has had a long production history, and not necessarily a good one. Originally titled Deep Tiki, the film, described as “Joe vs. The Volcano meets Jerry Maguire“, was put on hold for some serious retooling, and was resurrected after Crowe’s success with We Bought a Zoo. But apparently he didn’t do nearly enough, as ex-Sony chief Amy Pascal famously ripped the film in leaked emails. She ripped Crowe for basically being terrible, ripped the film’s entire premise, ripped the story, ripped everything, calling it “ridiculous” and that it “makes no sense”.
Here’s the thing: she’s right about all of it. Aloha is a misguided effort from the boring (and apparently offensive) title to the nonsensical plot, which turns a Hawaiian paradise into a torture chamber of comic mishaps. Given to wild leaps in logic and overdoses of sentimentality, it’s like somebody made a spot-on parody of a terrible Cameron Crowe movie. Awesome, gorgeous stars like Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone, and Bill Murray saying a bunch of long-winded, emotionally-devoid stuff no human being would ever say unless they were characters written by Crowe.
What passes for a plot has Bradley Cooper as Brian Gilcrest, a defense contractor who used to be hot sh*t before flaming out in spectacular fashion. Given one last chance to redeem himself thanks to eccentric billionaire philanthropist Carson Welch (Murray), Brian is sent to Hawaii to oversee the launch of a satellite into orbit. It’s a project that has the Air Force all hot ‘n bothered, so they stick Brian with a chaperone in Air Force pilot Allison Ng (Stone), and task him with securing the blessing of the island chiefs before the launch. Why does he need their blessing? For good P.R. or something, or maybe it’s because actual mystical forces are at play? It’s hard to say, and Crowe doesn’t seem to know, either.
Actually, it’s more like he doesn’t really care about the satellite or the island gods or whatever, because none of that stuff makes an ounce of sense. Crowe is more interested in the chemistry-free romance between Brian, Allison, and Brian’s ex-girlfriend Tracy (McAdams), who lives on the island with her mute husband (John Krasinski). He’s not actually mute; he just doesn’t like to talk. Why? No idea. Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t ultimately matter. Crowe’s tendency to create manic pixie dreamgirls for his damaged male characters to fall for kicks into overdrive as we get two of them this time. That Allison is supposedly a serious-minded, if somewhat odd, military official is immediately undercut by her childish infatuation with Brian. She’s not a character we can believe in for a single moment, but at least with Stone in the role she’s fun to have around. Tracy, on the other hand, is a complete drag and a total blank slate as a person. She only exists to give Brian someone to angst over and occasionally argue with in vastly overwritten fashion. Their romantic past is one full of disappointments, but when the whole story comes out it’s anticlimactic, certainly not enough to hold our attention. Then again, little about this film is except for the gorgeous Hawaiian locale shot beautifully by cinematographer Eric Gautier. And of course the eclectic soundtrack is exceptional, although Crowe seems to be leaning harder on it this time to create the emotional resonance his script simply doesn’t.
As tonally misjudged as Elizabethtown and twice as disappointing, Aloha at least gave its cast a sweet paid vacation to Hawaii. And someone remember to send Ms. Pascal a “thank you” note for trying to warn us. That lady deserves a promotion.