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With: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, Bill Camp, Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, Danielle Rose Russell, Jaeden Lieberher
Written by: Cameron Crowe
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments
Running Time: 105
Date: 05/28/2015

Aloha (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Clutter Island

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Cameron Crowe's Aloha was the subject of some bad pre-release buzz and was screened for the press under some very strict guidelines, and now it seems as if critics are descending upon it with venom that has been building for some time. It can be fun to watch the mighty fall; Crowe was once a hit-maker who refreshed tired genres and won an Oscar along the way. But he made some bad choices, including the remake Vanilla Sky and the expensive, ill-conceived flop Elizabethtown. Aloha has a weird plot, but the funny characters and their romantic interactions make the movie worth seeing. Not to mention that some wise editor cut it down to a slick 1 hour and 45 minutes, much shorter than some of Crowe's recent attempts. At heart, it's just a romantic comedy, slightly above average in this stagnant genre.

In Aloha — Crowe's eighth feature film as director — Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is a former pilot and a total wreck of a man; a character says "you've sold your soul so many times no one is buying anymore." He's been hired to come to Hawaii, speak to King Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele and get him to agree to do a blessing over a new pedestrian gate. A plucky pilot named Allison Ng (Emma Stone) is ordered to be his "watchdog" and make sure he gets the job done. The meeting, of course, involves some negotiation. The king fears that weapons satellites will be launched overhead, and Ng assures him that they won't.

But of course, they are about to be. A gazillionaire, Carson Welch (Bill Murray), is preparing to launch his own, private satellite, which has a secret nuclear payload. Only Gilcrest is given knowledge of this (for some reason), and he must decide whether to do the right thing. All this stuff is nonsensical and rather confusing, and it goes along with Gilcrest's and Ng's discussions of the meanings of the sky, as well as other Hawaiian mythology. But, for me, the real meat of the movie lies in its quirky characters, rather than the oddball plot mechanisms.

While in Hawaii Gilcrest meets a former flame, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is now married, to another pilot, Woody (John Krasinski), with kids. Something in Tracy immediately stirs when she sees him again; while attending a funeral, she somehow knows he's behind her, and she turns around to meet his gaze. Her marriage is not happy. Woody doesn't talk much, and in a hilarious scene, he "greets" Gilcrest without a word, and Gilcrest translates his series of gestures for Tracy. But still, Woody is no idiot and he knows that Gilcrest has awakened something in his wife.

Meanwhile, Gilcrest and Ng make a great "meet-cute" couple, with her annoying, chipper quality irritating him, and his deep wells of sadness intriguing her. It helps that both actors are above-average as well, with Stone recalling an adorable, off-kilter Diane Keaton and Cooper fast becoming the handsome, funny, charismatic leading man that Hollywood so desperately needs right now. Hawaii also helps a great deal, giving the movie a warm blanket of calm and freshness, sunlight and breezes. It's a very relaxing movie to watch.

Alec Baldwin shows up in a couple of scenes, yelling at Gilcrest, and Danny McBride plays a man in charge of the base, nicknamed "Fingers" because of the way he uses his hands when he talks. And even though Murray is the bad guy, he has quite a few lovable little Murray moments. They provide more of the fragments that work in Aloha despite a lack of connectivity and overall cohesiveness. It's not a great movie as a whole, but if one were to watch a clip show of Crowe's greatest single moments, quite a few of the scenes in Aloha would slip in there alongside John Cusack and the boom box, "show me the money," and "you had me at hello."

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