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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Aloha

Aloha means goodbye. 

It's a fitting title for a film that has cemented my lack of interest in Cameron Crowe movies forever. 

Crowe has been on a pretty rough track these past few years, really ever since my favored high point, Vanilla Sky. It's been a harsh downward slide for America's one-time favorite feel-good filmmaker cum album cover tribute artist. Elizabethtown was a disaster, but We Bought A Zoo showed that while Crowe was nowhere near the filmmaker he once was, there was at least a spark of something that could keep audiences and critics from co-signing him to the dustbin of history.

Aloha, a movie that wasn't originally called that, and wasn't originally supposed to be released in May (it was a December film initially), filled a few of the hopeful with promise. A hotter-than-hot Bradley Cooper playing a lovelorn private defense contractor, Emma Stone as the quirky air force pilot he falls for, and the lady we'll likely all be talking about this summer for her upcoming True Detective stint, Rachel McAdams, as the ex he can't quite let go of. Wrap all that up with a healthy side of Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride and a Hawaiian backdrop and you have something that, on paper, should be able to right the ship that Crowe has so awkwardly steered this past decade.

It doesn't. At all.

Fifteen minutes into Aloha, I knew I was in trouble. When Emma Stone utters her first lines of dialogue about Polynesian myth (which in no way fits the scene or sounds like anything a real-live human might say), I realized there was no going back. The problem with Aloha is that it desperately wants to say something about militarization of the natural world, and how the private sector has worsened this global issue, that it does so at the peril of its own characters and internal logic. Nor is it terribly helpful that this message arrives via Crowe about 12 years too late. 

At the same time, the beleaguered filmmaker is attempting to graft this idea onto his typical romantic tropes; the brash guy with a lesson to learn, the girl who is slightly out of sync with the rest of the world, etc. But the entire affair never escapes the feeling of it being a xeroxed copy of the better moments of his oeuvre. Even his most endearing film almost gets name-checked a few times as characters tell others to "say something". The fact of the matter is, this is as cliche as a romantic drama gets with nary a surprise to be found. By the final denouement, I think my eyes not only rolled into the back of my head, they also hit the floor and started to rattle around in the front seats. 

No one comes off well here, not Cooper, who seems to barely be able to hide his embarrassment, nor Stone, who is more awful here than I've ever seen her (and she's also a quarter Hawaiian in this movie, so all her ludicrous dialogue makes more sense somehow?). McAdams is clearly playing two different characters that were somehow merged into one, and her role in the plot seems to shift at any given moment. Honestly, I'm still not sure what McAdams was doing here. I get the feeling she probably didn't know either. The only person who may just come out a winner is Krasinski, due to his character being mostly silent. If there's anything Krasinski knows how to do, it's act with his eyes and a few slight facial expressions. With a script this awful, the less you get to say, the better off you'll be.

Aloha can't even get the setting right. Recall if you will, the George Clooney starring The Descendants, which perfectly captured the stunning vistas and lush color that makes up Hawaii's remarkable islands. None of that is present here, and for a film that attempts to wallow in our fiftieth state's spirituality and majesty, there's not even a smidgen of physical detail or topography that marks the environment that surrounds them. It's a shockingly murky looking film, and if you told me it actually took place in Florida, I might believe you.

I'm sure I'll see many bad movies as the summer season of 2015 sets in, but I'm hopeful I can avoid another one as shockingly inept as this.

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