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Cameron Crowe’s Aloha plays like a mediocre cover of a song he’s recorded much better before, with all the predictable beats you’d expect. Characters exchange sincere glances and open up about their innermost feelings, the camera pushes in at exactly the right moment to heighten the emotions, the soundtrack finds just the right pop song to let the audience know how they should feel, and it all aches with the sincerity and sentimentality that Crowe has made his trademark. And it’s also a giant mess.

Upon viewing the film one feels overwhelmed before the movie even gets going, as Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) tells us through voiceover how life and his work has brought him to Hawaii after serving overseas. Once an ambitious military man, Gilcrest left the service after the economic recession of 2008 to work as a private contractor for billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) hungry to take advantage of the privatization of Hawaiian land. Joining Gilcrest on the journey is Allison (Emma Stone), an Air Force pilot whose limitless energy is buoyed by a devoted enthusiasm for what the U.S. military can accomplish so long as they stand by their principles. Her idealism stands in sharp contrast to Brian’s cynicism. We know this because Crowe’s screenplay gives her lines like “You’re cynical, I get it” just in case we might miss out. Of course she slowly breaks through to him and wins his heart, making him a changed man. We’ve seen this dynamic play out much better in Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, which for all its schmalz never felt half as forced or incoherent as Aloha. Despite his leads’ best efforts, Crowe seems to have simply thrown them together and given them some of his trademark banter in the hopes a strong relationship would form.

Much of the various subplots of Aloha prove similarly problematic, including Brian’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams), now in a strained marriage and the mother of two children—the first whose conception times out suspiciously close to her split from Brian. There’s also the billionaire whose impending satellite launch may carry a hidden agenda. The film drifts from being a romantic comedy, a family melodrama, and political film with mixed results on all fronts. Attempts to explore the theme of Hawaiian identity through Brian’s efforts to win the blessing of the leader of the Nation of Hawai’I (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele as himself) to begin construction on a new base doesn’t really lead anywhere (it also doesn’t help that Crowe cast the very white Stone in a role that was written for a women of part- Eurasian ancestry.)

Aloha is a film that manages to feel both overblown and underdeveloped, as if Crowe’s routine screenplay had either been rushed off or stripped down from a far more ambitious and insightful one. Much of his dialogue falls flat, the chemistry of the leads fizzles, and the moral of the story comes off more corny than true. It’s a dud.

Watch the trailer for Aloha

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