Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Stars: Alec Baldwin, Bradley Cooper, John Krasinski, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Emma Stone
Director: Cameron Crowe
You always want to give a filmmaker with the caliber of writer-director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) the benefit of the doubt. But somewhere around the middle of his romantic comedy Aloha— oh, I don't know, maybe around the time Bill Murray gets hold of a nuclear bomb — you finally have to pull your chips off the table and ask the dealer for a new deck.
It's hard to know what anybody involved in this misbegotten mash-up was thinking, other than "Hey! The shooting location's in Hawaii!" (The state looks beautiful here, but that's a bit like saying Sharon Stone was attractive in Basic Instinct 2.)
Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest (I keep wanting to call him Ryan Seacrest), a hotshot defense contractor who arrives in Hawaii to help grease the skids for his billionaire boss (Murray) as he tries to negotiate a delicate land deal with the locals.
Neal Preston/Columbia Pictures
Murray wants to build a pedestrian walkway to his new rocket plant, but the planned route would pave over a traditional burial ground. Yes, we're talking about a sidewalk here. It's the sort of thing your average homeowners association tackles as an afterthought at its quarterly meetings, but for some reason Murray's billions depend on this sidewalk being built right there, and Gilcrest is the only man on the planet qualified to pull it off.
Anyway, Gilcrest's return to Hawaii is also an occasion to visit his old girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), now the mother of two kids and the wife of a tall, handsome and unnervingly quiet Air Force pilot (John Krasinski). In their very first scene together, we're told that Tracy's 12-year-old daughter, Grace (Danielle Rose Russell), was born "about a year" after she and Gilcrest split up. Throughout the film, Grace and Gilcrest keep staring at each other curiously. And every 15 minutes or so, Tracy pulls Gilcrest aside and mutters a variation on "I've got to talk to you about something…" What, oh what could she want to tell him? If you haven't figured out the secret by 20 minutes into the film (and Gilcrest, of course, does not), may I interest you in some real estate downhill from the Kilauea volcano?
While he's in Hawaii, Gilcrest is assigned the company of a fresh-faced officer named Allison, played by Emma Stone (Emma, Margaret Keane called — she wants her eyes back). They start out all argument-y, so there's no way they could ever wind up together, right?
As for Murray's nuke, rest assured Paradise is not lost, thanks largely to some scientific paper Gilcrest wrote several years earlier regarding projecting sound waves through space. So besides specializing in sidewalk negotiations, Gilcrest is one of the century's premier scientific minds. (Revealing of such details is less a "spoiler" than a "stupidity warning.")
Murray is fun, as always, as the quirky billionaire, and Alec Baldwin entertains as a gruff Air Force general. When Gilcrest and Allison visit a remote outpost of Hawaiian nationalists — a group that questions the legitimacy of Hawaii's statehood — they meet up with Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, playing himself. Kanahele is a controversial figure in Hawaii, and Crowe goes to such narrative lengths to escort us to his mountaintop home that you've got to figure he's the real reason Aloha ever got made.
Sorry, Cameron, but that's not reason enough.
Bill Newcott is a writer, editor and movie critic for AARP Media.