Cameron Crowe Whiffs With Unintelligible "Aloha"

Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” is a curious twist on the body swap comedy, with its talented creator and stars ostensibly pulling a switcheroo with a group of exponentially less talented people. The movie isn’t as terrible as it is lifeless, but it is pretty terrible, impossibly misusing Bill Murray and making two of Hollywood’s most likable actresses – Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams – mostly unlikable.

Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) stars as Brian Gilcrest, a military defense contractor en route to a destination with which he has a past. He’s soon entangled in a blurry love triangle with a former, now-married flame, Tracy (McAdams), and an excitable young pilot, Allison (Stone).

The aforementioned destination is, of course, Hawaii, crassly used here as a backdrop for a story that counts a single Hawaiian character among its leads. But it gets worse. That character is Stone’s, a decidedly not Asian actress playing one-quarter Asian, and with a deep connection to her land’s spirit world. As Allison and Brian hit it off, Crowe’s screenplay subjects us to endless bouts of Hawaiian lore as window dressing, scored by all the ukulele tracks Crowe could get his hands on.

It’s not that the “Almost Famous” director’s worst, most garrulous instincts are on display here. There are no instincts evident at all, as if he’s never made a film before. Scenes go on and on, almost begging the audience to zone out, not ending as much as petering out. Even solid supporting performances from Danny McBride and Alec Baldwin are rendered useless in their brevity, a filmmaker obsessed with the minutiae of a nothing lead character and a nothing story.

The narrative is centered on the launching of a satellite, or something, with Murray’s slithery white-collar villain attempting to co-opt it for nefarious purposes. Crowe seems unable to come up with a single reason for the comedy legend to be in his movie, and Murray is understandably disengaged.

It all makes for a genuinely painful waiting game for something interesting to happen. When it becomes clear that nothing will, it’s easier to zero in on a few flickers of snappy dialogue that evoke Crowe at his best – McBride’s throwaway line about a baby named Don is particularly delightful – but the piece at large is devoid of reason. Reasons for its characters’ actions. Reasons to exist.

“Aloha” seems to mark Cameron Crowe entering the “dad rock” phase of his career, where light touch becomes no touch at all, the artist coming to terms with having nothing left to say. That’s an inevitability for all creative persons, but rare in coming so hard, so fast. In comparison, his previous two works “Elizabethtown” and “We Bought A Zoo” seem absolutely vital.

The only thing remarkable about “Aloha” is how its assemblage of so much talent yields so little. Hopefully it’ll go down as a blip on a sturdy career rather than the point where everything unraveled.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★ out of ★★★★★ (Not So Good)

Release Date: May 29, 2015
Studio: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Director: Cameron Crowe
Screenwriter: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some language including suggestive comments)