Aloha, the follow-up film to 2011’s We Bought A Zoo by writer and director Cameron Crowe is the subject of my latest review. I admittedly didn’t watch the aforementioned zoo movie and don’t have a satisfactory reason why. While I loathe Scarlet Johansson, her presence would not have been enough to make me skip the movie. I don’t see the appeal because she’s an awful actor and I could think of a dozen ladies in Hollywood that are “hotter” to me but that would never affect my viewing. Anyways, I’ve lost sight of things and will get back on topic.
Cameron Crowe has written and directed some amazing films. He wrote Fast Times At Ridgemont High. I believe he wrote and directed Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Macguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, and Elizabethtown. He’s worked with Pearl Jam on a few different things as well. Suffice to say, he’s done some great work. I’ve enjoyed all of his work and have been an unabashed fan – until this last film. In it he attempts to tell a romantic tale interspersed with some comedy and some silly folklore. I don’t want to call it a downright failure, but it wasn’t great.
Far as I can tell, everything was filmed in Hawaii, on and around an Air Force base. Bradley Cooper takes on the starring role as a broken character looking for redemption in both career and love. Emma Stone plays a rigid one-quarter-Hawaiian fighter pilot. The Supporting cast is comprised of John Krasinski, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, and probably some others that elude me. Apparently there’s been some hub-bub online about casting Stone as a quarter Hawaiian and how the movie makes Hawaii feel like it’s predominantly Caucasian in populous. Both are silly complaints in my opinion because firstly it’s perfectly feasible for Stone to be one-quarter Hawaiian as her character suggests that her father is half-Chinese and half-Hawaiian where her mother is Swedish. It’s not a stretch by any means. Secondly, the “Hawaii is too honkey” claim is silly because there were lots of indigenous people in the film and the movie isn’t about Hawaii specifically. The Air Force base provides enough explanation for the look and feel of the film. I think both claims are ridiculous for the record. Back on point!
Here’s an effort to summarize without giving too much away. The main character used to be a somebody in the Air Force and things went sideways for him. He’s brought back some years later because of his ties to the local Hawaiian people and I guess some folks still have a sweet spot for him. As he shit the bed in the past, he is to be babysat by the fighter pilot woman. There’s a possible love story there but for the fact that the main character’s ex from thirteen years prior lives on the base with her husband.
The events that unfold are predictable. I’m not throwing predictability under the bus because it can be great if done well. A little twist here, some good lines there, and great performances by the cast all add up to a strong piece – even if it’s cookie-cutter generic. Sadly, Aloha didn’t have the right stuff. The main character and the fighter pilot are both unlikeable at first but have a very sudden attribute change about 20 minutes into the movie. The change had to happen for the movie to proceed but there was no real motivation to it from the characters. I feel that the change and subsequent character development lacked any momentum and only occurred because it was absolutely necessary. As a result, I found both characters unrelatable and particularly annoying. The main character spent too little time exploring his failings that required an eventual redemption and the fighter pilot was a stiff and rigid GI character that suddenly turned light and whimsical. I couldn’t connect to either and don’t know that the on-screen portrayal was to blame.
The main character’s ex and her husband stole the show as far as I’m concerned. Her character was developed, her motivations were clear, and she stayed the course the entire time. Her husband was the “silent type” male and that angle was played up in what ended up being some of the best comedy in the film. I don’t know that I’d even call it a rom-com after seeing it, but Rachel McAdams and John Krasinski nailed their parts and I feel like that effort should have been used to develop the other characters as well. Their roles were unfortunately wasted, I felt. Credit to both of them for really making their scenes enjoyable.
I’m not sure if anyone else has made the correlation but the plot is deceptively similar to Elizabethtown. Broken man goes back to visit his past and is swept off his feet by a polar opposite character. Sprinkle in a strong supporting cast and an angry Alec Baldwin and voilá! I only mention Elizabethtown because Crowe definitely got that film right. The comedy was there, the drama was there, the romance was there. It was a genuinely good film and I look forward to revisiting it in the days to come. I think if Crowe was so keen on regurgitating what he’d already done, he should have referenced his source material more instead of skimming the Cliff’s Notes.
I’d like to reiterate how much I’ve enjoyed Cameron Crowe’s work in the past. His writing, his characters, his soundtracks have all been fantastic. I’m afraid to watch We Bought A Zoo because I feel like it might suffer from the same shortcomings that Aloha has. I might end up watching it if only to see how it fares in comparison. While the cast was great, almost everything else from the plot to the soundtrack suffered. The parts that did work were not strong enough to carry the film by any means.