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Movie Night – 'Aloha' has much going for it, but comes up average (June 10, 2015 issue)

“Aloha” has all of the components necessary for a very good movie. It has an all-star cast, an A-list writer/director, and was filmed on location in beautiful Hawaii. But, even with everything going for it, “Aloha” is decidedly average.
Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is a former soldier who is now a military contractor working for a private company owned by billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). Gilcrest had been a rising star until he screwed up big time in some fashion (the audience is never given specifics) in Kabul, Afghanistan that led to him suffering a severe leg injury. Gilcrest fell out of favor with Welch since his failure in Kabul and his career seemed to be in jeopardy.
Gilcrest is given a second chance when Welch orders him to return to the site of some of his greatest accomplishments, Hawaii. The task sounds simple, Gilcrest must convince the king of the sovereign nation of Hawaii to bless the relocation of a burial ground so that a new pedestrian gate to the Air Force base can be constructed.
There’s a segment of the Hawaiian population that resists being a part of the United States and instead claim land for their own sovereign nation. Gilcrest is expected to gain their trust and blessing.
The Air Force assigns Allison Ng (Emma Stone) to be Gilcrest’s Air Force liaison for his mission. Ng is formal, peppy, optimistic, and extremely energetic. She and Gilcrest clash almost immediately. Where Gilcrest is laid back and charismatic, Ng is a strait-laced and by-the-book fighter pilot.
At the same time Gilcrest is dealing with seeing an old ex-girlfriend on the base, Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams) along with her husband, Woody (John Krasinski) and their two children. Gilcrest realizes that he still has feelings for Tracy at about the same time he starts developing feelings for Ng. He must somehow navigate this minefield of obstacles and still manage to get his career, and life, back on track.
In addition to Cooper, Murray, Stone, McAdams, and Krasinski, the cast includes Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride. The cast is excellent and they all play their parts well. Yet despite the great cast, there’s something missing about “Aloha.”
The failure of the movie is in the writing. At times it’s clever and sophisticated and funny. But at other times the writing falls flat on its face. (The best scenes in the movie take place in total silence with Cooper and Krasinski. The two communicate through “manly” body language without the need for words.)
The story is convoluted and confusing. Many parts of the plot are not explained at all. For instance, why does a billionaire military contractor need a pedestrian gate to be blessed before he can launch a rocket?
Cameron Crowe was the writer and director of such hits as “Jerry Maguire,” “Say Anything,” and “Almost Famous.” He was also the writer and director of such duds as “Vanilla Sky” and “Elizabethtown.” “Aloha” is not his worst movie, but it’s not close to being his best either.
The movie is a series of lost opportunities. Despite having every advantage, “Aloha” never met its own high expectations.
Grade: B-
Rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments.