Movie Review: Aloha
By Matthew Huntley
June 8, 2015
Aloha tells the middling story of one “mess of a man” who’s forgotten, or perhaps willingly chosen to neglect, his once cherished ideals. And this being a romantic drama and all, a woman will no doubt play a role in helping him remember them.
If this sounds like a familiar trope for writer-director Cameron Crowe, it should. His Jerry Maguire (1996) more or less embraced the same storyline, only it was fresher and more original 20 years ago. Crowe essentially recycles his own material here and it’s not that it’s suddenly bad, but because he’s ventured down this road before, it’s simply not as good this time around.
Consider the similarities between Aloha and Jerry Maguire: both center on a recently single, immature man pushing 40; both have the man working in a field we’re not used to seeing in the movies - in the case of Jerry Maguire, it was the ultra-competitive, unapologetic world of pro sports, in which the titular man was a high-powered agent; in Aloha, he’s a contract negotiator in the military defense industry, an arena that’s probably even more competitive and cutthroat than pro sports. Eventually, the man comes to meet a colorful, loyal woman, with whom he begins a relationship that starts out platonic but inevitably turns romantic. And finally, both movies end with the man not only re-discovering the love that brought him to his job in the first place - for Jerry Maguire, that love was for sports and people; for Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), the hero of Aloha, it’s his adoration and knowledge of the sky - but also realizing it’s his love for the woman that really matters.
The parallels between Aloha and Jerry Maguire (not to mention several other romantic dramas) ultimately hold it back from becoming anything worth getting excited about, since all it feels too familiar. Plus, the specifics of the story aren’t as interesting. Brian tells us at the beginning he used to know everything there is about the sky: its constellations, its myths; who was currently in it, who had just returned from it, and above all, its limitless potential as a body worth exploring. The sky was the reason he entered the military’s space program, but then, in 2008, he admittedly sold out and went over to the “gray side” by choosing to work for billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). It became Brian’s job to go into underdeveloped territories and set them up with Welch’s global communication services.
A military attack in Afghanistan left Brian permanently scarred and out of commission, but now he’s back in the game and returning to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was once stationed. Once again peddling a contract for Welch, he’s there to convince the locals to let Welch’s company buy the sky above their land so it can launch a new satellite and thus help bring the 50th state into the modern communications age, although Welch’s intentions aren’t altruistic as either he or Brian would have us believe.
Immediately upon stepping off the plane, Brian is greeted by Allison Ng (Emma Stone), an Air Force handler who will serve as his chaperone. She tells him her last name is like “Ring” only without the “Ri.” In fact, she tells him a lot of things…fast. Allison is a by-the-books go-getter, not to mention an incessant talker, and she’s also obviously infatuated by Brian and his big blue eyes. But Brian’s eyes veer more toward his ex-girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who may or may not share the same feelings. They haven’t seen each other for 13 years and she’s now married to John (John Krasinski), a man of few words and possibly fewer emotions. Despite having two kids, Tracy and John’s marriage teeters on the brink of collapse, and one of the running questions throughout the film is whether or not Brian’s visit will push it over the edge.
The morality surrounding the satellite and his increasingly complicated relationships with Ng and Tracy give Brian plenty to think about over the next few days, but unfortunately these developments don’t give us a whole lot to care about, probably because we can mostly guess where they’re going. Neither really takes off as something essential or entertaining, and so we just sort of watch Aloha idly and unenthusiastically as it approaches its foregone (and rather sappy) conclusion. The movie is sometimes funny, sometimes romantic, and sometimes heartwarming, but it’s not enough of anything to bear much consequence to us.
And even though they have a lot in common, Aloha is not up to the same level of quality as Jerry Maguire, which had more memorable dialogue, a more intriguing romance, and an energetic punch from Cuba Gooding Jr. If Aloha does have one thing that stands out, it’s a dance scene that proves Bill Murray can certainly cut a rug, and while that was a sight to see, it’s doesn’t warrant a recommendation. Sorry, Bill.