Aloha

Between the lush tropical scenery and the beautiful faces in the cast, Aloha has plenty for the eyes, but not much for the brain.

Despite a top-notch ensemble cast, the latest romantic comedy from director Cameron Crowe only sporadically flashes the sharp dialogue and emotional depth that characterize the filmmaker’s best work. For that, you need to reach back more than a decade.

The film is set in Hawaii, of course, where Brian (Bradley Cooper) was stationed as a military officer and now returns as a contractor for a billionaire (Bill Murray) who has invested heavily in NASA and is looking for somewhere to launch his rocket ostensibly for humanitarian purposes.

A young no-nonsense Air Force captain (Emma Stone) is assigned to track Brian during his operation, while it takes only minutes for him to spot a former flame (Rachel McAdams) on the tarmac at the airport. She’s since married a pilot (John Krasinski) and started a family near the base.

The sexual tension is established early, making a romantic triangle inevitable as past secrets are revealed and the ulterior motives behind Brian’s mission for his new boss become more apparent.

Aloha generates some big laughs with its witty banter and charming cast. Yet the overall impact is more predictable than profound, and the insight into relationships and corporate greed are half-hearted at best. Even Crowe’s typically eclectic soundtrack choices are uninspired by his standards.

Not a tribute to either the military or space exploration, the film misses an opportunity by not weaving the unique customs and cultural heritage of Hawaii into its story in a more integral way. Instead, it winds up borderline insulting to the natives by focusing so much on outsiders who feel transported from a Manhattan sitcom into a land of beaches and palm trees.

Cooper’s character is a jaded misanthrope with commitment issues, seeking redemption while being forced to confront his past. He’s also selfish, manipulative, and lacking a moral compass, making the two main female characters feel especially shallow, as there’s no reason any self-respecting woman would fall for him almost unconditionally.

Crowe remains a gifted storyteller, and in fairness, the choppy narrative here suggests some post-production tinkering that might have been out of his control. Still, the primary issues with Aloha are more fundamental, meaning that perhaps it should have long since been buried in the sand.

 

Rated PG-13, 104 minutes.