A strange thing has happened over the last few years. The romantic comedy, once a lynchpin of Hollywood’s desire to profit off date nights, has slowly disappeared after a few too many Katherine Heigl crap-heaps soured anyone’s interest. Presumably, Sony hoped that giving former rom-com champ Cameron Crowe a crack at the bat might help revive the genre, but unfortunately his latest film ‘Aloha’ is such a thoroughly embarrassing disaster that it’s unlikely to be the comeback hit Crowe or Sony hoped for.
The trailers have done everything they can to make the movie sound simple, but the script is actually such an incoherent mess that it’s amazing the guy who once twanged hearts with the likes of ‘Jerry Maguire‘ and ‘Say Anything‘ was responsible. Bradley Cooper stars as a space obsessed former Air Force officer who has left the fold and is now helping eccentric billionaire Bill Murray launch a private satellite (or something… I’m honestly not sure what happened in most of this stupid movie). He takes a trip to Hawaii to grease a few palms for the cause, when matters of the heart make things all complicated and bugaboo.
Cooper is assigned a perky Emma Stone to shadow him and show him around, and their oil-and-water personalities seem made for movie magic. Rachel McAdams appears as the girl Cooper left behind. She’s now married to an amusingly silent John Krasinski, yet when the old couple’s eyeballs meet and they exchange some snappy dialogue, they find a little spark left. Plus, Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride pop up as old Army buddies or whatever. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but at least they actually sneak in some laughs.
If that all sounds like boilerplate rom-com stuff that will snap into predictable place in time for the third act, think again. The biggest problem with ‘Aloha’ is that the once snappy and focused writer Crowe can’t seem to decide what the hell type of movie he wants to make. Sure, the rom-com trappings and trimmings are here, but around them are a peculiar hodgepodge of themes ranging from military privatization and space weaponry to obscure Hawaiian mythology and sound transduction. What’s all that have to do with a gently comic love story, you ask? Honestly, I have no clue.
Rumors have floated around that the film went into production without a finished script and Crowe panicked trying to make things up on the fly. It sure feels like it given that almost every other scene seems to be about something else for much of the awkwardly structured running time. The movie weaves in and out of various tones and ideas in a messy way that creates confusion in the audience rather than a sense of unpredictable elation. When Magic Realism starts to slip in amidst gently comedic swipes at military politics, it’s hard not to shout out at the screen, “What the hell were you all thinking?!” Considering that Crowe refused to do any press for the film despite it theoretically being a comeback vehicle for him, chances are he couldn’t answer that question.
Of course, it would be unfair to blame all the failings of ‘Aloha’ on Crowe’s sloppy script. As those dastardly leaked Sony emails revealed, this movie has been in a state of editing hell for almost a year now and didn’t even have a title until recently, as a team of editors, producers and Crowe tried to figure out exactly what they were making in the cutting room. Since so many of the slapdash storytelling issues come from blatantly retooled editing barely patched over by a needle-drop soundtrack, there’s a chance that an earlier version of the film was more coherent. It’s possible. However, given that Crowe’s last two movies were the equally troubled ‘Elizabethtown’ and the painfully bland ‘We Bought a Zoo‘, it’s also unlikely.
The biggest shame of the whole sorry mess is the fact that such a talented and adorable cast gets wasted. Very few filmmakers could pull all these faces together at a reasonable price, and it’s painful to see them all squandered on such a nothing project unworthy of anyone’s time or talent. Former Sony head Amy Pascal obviously never wanted this statement to make it to the public, but she unwittingly provided the perfect ‘Aloha’ pull-quote in a leaked email: “It never, not even once, ever works.” If poster quotes were chosen based purely on accuracy, that sucker would be on billboards and buses everywhere right now.