by David Robinson, Movie Reviewer
Out on DVD, “Aloha” is a sporadically amusing mess of a movie. The poster for “Aloha” shows Bradley Cooper at the apex of a triangle, with Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams at the other two corners. This arrangement basically foreshadows the main plot: this is a romantic comedy, though its structure is somewhat obscured by a couple or three other subplots. Director/screenwriter Cameron Crowe overlays the romantic triangle (OK, it’s a rectangle, to be more accurate) with some Hawaiian myth, a rocket launch, a hint of a back story about the checkered past of Cooper’s character, and a couple of swipes about the state of contemporary American culture.
Iraq war veteran Brian Gilchrist (Cooper), a former civilian contractor in the pay of billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), returns to the Aloha State, ostensibly to help smooth over the opening of a new pedestrian gate at Hingham AFB. He is assigned a watchdog, jet jockey Allison Ng (Stone), who claims to be one-quarter Hawaiian (something of a visual hard sell). Coincidentally, his ex-GF, Tracy (McAdams) lives there with her two kids and her frequently-absentee husband, Woody (John Krasinski), a pilot who ferries people over from the mainland.
Compared to the voluble Brian, Woody is all but mute, a characteristic played for laughs but also one that drives a wedge between Woody and Tracy, the comic payoff coming in one wonderful, subtitled moment between Brian and Woody and the dramatic tension ending up in a confrontation between Woody and Tracy which seems to spell the end of their marriage.
But the chattiest character by some distance is Stone’s, who gushes over the Hawaiian landscape and mythology to the point where Brian limits her to five-word sentences. They meet up with the King of the Native State of Hawaii, Danny Bumpy Kanahalee (playing himself), attempting to get his blessing on the new gate, in exchange for a mountain or two and a better signal for cellphones. Both Brian and Allison claim that the skies over his kingdom are sacred and will not be violated by the Air Force. (The undercurrent of distrust reflects the actual animosity between native Hawaiians and the military, which some regard as an occupying force.)
Alas, there is a sinister plot afoot, as the gregarious but underhanded Welch has attempted to put a secret payload in a rocket being launched offshore, making use of Brian’s presence to help out by forestalling a hack into the rocket’s system by the Chinese, who don’t trust that this is a communications satellite being sent into orbit. Brian has to decide where his loyalties and interests lie but, this being comedy, all is set aright at the end, with the appropriate folks getting together,or being mollified or arrested. Oh, and world peace prevails, sort of.
“Aloha” has some major editing problems: the finished product seems to be missing large chunks of explanatory material, some of which is winkled in via odd bits of dialogue. Those who don’t mind not having everything laid out explicitly will overlook this failure; others may just be confused. The movie is rated “PG-13” for language, including some suggestive comments, but I’m guessing that most teens will not find this as absorbing as the video game flicks that have dominated the screens lately.