The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Aloha is the new Gigli. It's got a great cast, comes from a respected filmmaker, and was clearly subjected to so much reediting that you can scarcely even tell what the point was supposed to be anymore. Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Say Anthing...) has concocted a romantic triangle steeped in Hawaiian mythology. While that's an ambitious idea, the execution of it inspires far more head-scratching than swooning.

Bradley Cooper stars as Brian Gilcrest, a disgraced military contractor who gets a second chance when rich industrialist Carson Welch (Bill Murray) hires him to help launch a satellite over Hawaiian airspace. As soon as he arrives in the state, he runs into Tracy (Rachel McAdams), his former girlfriend. She's now married to a pilot, Woody (John Krasinski), and has two kids. Both Brian and Tracy feel that they never achieved closure in their breakup, so a few old sparks begin to fly. But Brian is also assigned an Air Force watchdog, Allison Ng (Emma Stone), to keep him in line, and he develops chemistry with her, as well. What should be a straightforward job becomes hopelessly complicated as he tries to sort out his romantic feelings for both women while also dealing with the fact that Welch's intentions may not be as honorable as he claims.

Watching Aloha is like reading every other chapter of a book. You can follow the basic plot, but the details don't add up. So much seems to be missing. One-third of the time is devoted to Brian reconnecting with Tracy. The issues in their past relationship are skimmed over, so their attempts to achieve some sort of understanding ultimately goes nowhere. Another third is devoted to the romance between Brian and Allison. Despite viewing him as a hot mess, she's instantly attracted to him for reasons that are not clear. This goes nowhere either. Same for Allison's repeated requests for Brian to try understanding Hawaiian culture. The final third is about, of all things, the dangers of putting weapons into space. Obviously, it bears little connection to the other two-thirds, and consequently feels half-baked. Maybe Crowe spent so much time coming up with his material that he understood it, not realizing that no one else would.

Or maybe there was too much tinkering in the editing room. That's certainly how it feels. Crowe's screenplays are always tight, so there isn't much reason to believe that he'd write something so incoherent. You can feel gaps where something must have been at one point. The absence is jarring. Things happen and you don't know why. Characters say things and you have no idea what they're talking about. From moment to moment, Aloha feels glitchy, as though its skipping around uncontrollably.

The actors turn in fine work, even if their character arcs are incomplete. Individual scenes also seem as though they might, in a fuller context, have added up to something. One sequence, in which Murray and Stone dance to Hall & Oates' I Can't Go For That, is magical. There is definitely the raw material in Aloha for something special, which makes the movie's repeated failure to do anything with it all the more frustrating.

Everything really falls apart in the last half-hour. The resolution of Welch's satellite launch is almost laughably absurd, and there's a supposedly-comical scene between Brian and Woody that's like something you'd find in a stupid Adam Sandler movie. (Crowe does bear responsibility for these ill-conceived moments.) Then, maddeningly, Aloha ends on a tender, meaningful note the kind of thing we've been waiting for the whole time. It's too little, far too late, yet it's also evidence that the film was going for something much larger than what's actually visible.

Aloha is a great big mess. How it got this way might make for an engrossing story. Maybe someday Crowe will tell it. For now, we're left with a picture that, despite tons of promise, ends up thoroughly, pervasively unsatisfying.

( 1/2 out of four)

Aloha is rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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