Crowe’s love luau —
“Aloha” is a Hawaiian hot mess of a movie with an often unwieldy script, but given the chance, it quickly gets under the skin and thanks to its A-list cast is inexplicably and undeniably endearing. Owing to his celebrated career as a teenaged writer for Rolling Stone, writer-director Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire”) again demonstrates his gift for idiosyncratic relationship-y musings and adds a musical score that allows for a constant stream of poignant and often hilariously eclectic interludes.
There’s nothing in “Aloha” that will top “Show me the money!” for cultural impact, nor is there a scene that will have the iconic endurance of actor John Cusack’s forlorn, boombox-wielding boyfriend (from Crowe’s “Say Anything”), but the film is quirky to a fault and entertains nonetheless.
Bradley Cooper, as hot (career-wise) an actor as there is right now is Brian Gilcrest, a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict with a troubled past and limp from a leg injury who returns to Hawaii to lobby on behalf of private sector space entrepreneur and billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). There he’s assigned an enlisted “handler,” the aggressively perky and uber-efficient pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone). He’s reunited with old flame Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to comically, verbally-challenged airman Woody (John Krasinski). Tracy and Woody have two kids, several unresolved issues, and Tracy is harboring a secret or two since her break-up with Brian.
Seeing Cooper, Stone and McAdams at the peak of their careers is a wonder and more evidence that pure conviction and acting talent can lift a film to unexpected heights despite even the most maudlin dialogue or unworkable plot ideas (the satellite launch co-op idea feels half-baked). Did we mention the film also features Alec Baldwin as (what else?) a barking commanding officer, and the always interesting Danny McBride and Jaeden Lieberher (the kid from “St. Vincent”). When Murray and Stone dance to Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” at an officer’s club Christmas party, only to have Baldwin’s officer demand “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” you can feel the contrivance about to sink the scene, but Crowe leaves the camera on and just lets things unfold. Somehow it works.
There’s been some criticism of the film’s “whitewashing” Hawaii’s native culture (Nation of Hawaii leader Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele portrays himself), which is a stretch, and last year’s Sony email leak implied the studio wasn’t happy with the production.
But aren’t we always criticizing rom-coms for being stuck in formulaic nonsense and shallow disregard for how relationships really work? Credit Crowe for channeling Cooper’s palpable charm, Stone’s effervescent enthusiasm and McAdams’ never better sparkling heartache into that ever illusive of Hollywood elements: onscreen chemistry. It is easy to tolerate a flawed recipe when the cake turns out this tasty.
Rated PG-13 (for some language including suggestive comments).