Aloha—The AllMovie Review

When the catastrophic Sony e-mail leak occurred in November 2014, it provided the world with a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a major Hollywood studio (and resulted in a lot of lost jobs and bruised egos). One of the films that was a hot topic of conversation in the e-mails was Cameron Crowe’s then-untitled yarn about a private military contractor in Hawaii. Former Sony executive Amy Pascal had this to say about the upcoming release: “It never, not even once, ever works.” Perhaps her foresight prompted Sony to skimp on the marketing budget for this star-studded flick, but unfortunately for Crowe and the cast, her judgment was spot-on. Aloha is incoherently edited and an unmitigated disaster.

The movie throws its viewers straight into the “action” as it quickly introduces the morally compromised Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), who recently made a mess of a convoluted private-sector military contract in the Middle East and apparently caused a firefight that nearly killed him. He’s on his way to Hawaii to reconnect with billionaire aerospace tycoon Carson Welch (Bill Murray) in the hope of landing another contracting gig. Just about every major character is introduced in the claustrophobic first 10 minutes—we also meet Brian’s old flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams) and her military husband Woody (John Krasinski), as well as the straight-laced Air Force pilot assigned as Brian’s guide, Allison Ng (Emma Stone).

Brian is given the task of securing a “gate blessing” from a tribe of native Hawaiians so the U.S. military can build a base over an ancient burial ground. Wait, what? This blessing is the crux of the movie, and the characters casually discuss it as if viewers already know what it is. It’s a plot hole so deep that the film is dragged down into it, long before we see Brian falling for Allison or rekindling a friendship with Tracy. And then there’s the ridiculous twist that Welch, who turns into a quasi-Bond villain, wants Brian to secure this deal with the natives so he can launch a mysterious satellite into the sacred skies above the tribe. Crowe attempts to use this plot line to comment on the privatization of the U.S. military, but it just serves as a warning to young directors that you cannot vaguely explore a multifaceted issue like this in a rom-com. In addition, Tracy’s son keeps telling a Hawaiian myth that is supposed to be an allegory for Brian’s arrival, but the film drops this halfway through and it’s completely forgotten and unaddressed by the end.

It’s a shame that the talents of the cast were wasted on such a flimsy script. Alec Baldwin appears for the only laugh-out-loud moment (which, of course, was already spoiled in the trailer). Cooper is his usual charming self, and his chemistry with Stone would have been gold if the story gave their romance the space to flourish. Murray just seems disinterested, and Krasinski is unfortunately barred from speaking for the majority of the film in order to set up a ridiculous subtitled confrontation between him and Cooper’s character during the finale.

The editing of Aloha is astoundingly bad. Scenes are clearly missing and lines are amateurishly overdubbed. At one point while Brian and Alison are trekking up a mountainside to meet a local tribe leader, there’s a completely out-of-place scene of the two of them arguing passionately—just seconds after they were seen silently walking. The final cut of the film is so disjointed and meandering that it’s nearly impossible to follow, and unlike in Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, that confusion isn’t meant to be a plot device. Instead, it will leave moviegoers wondering why this straightforward love story has so many loose ends and is such a convoluted misfire. Even the conclusion of the satellite plot feels surreal, as if the actors were called back at the last minute to shoot a cure-all scene to try to salvage this mess. But no matter how many quirky soundtrack choices Crowe uses in Aloha, there is no salvaging a film that should never have been made.