Movie review: The sun sets on the party in Aloha

Feelings between two ex-lovers, played by Bradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams, are rekindled when they meet in Hawaii.
Feelings between two ex-lovers, played by Bradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams, are rekindled when they meet in Hawaii.PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Aloha fails to make waves despite its likeable Hollywood cast

Review Romance comedy

ALOHA (PG)

105 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2/5

The story: Successful but lonely military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is in Hawaii as a guest of the Air Force at an opening ceremony. Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone) is his official escort. He meets old flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams), now married to pilot John (John Krasinski). His feelings for Tracy are rekindled, even as he becomes entangled in a land scheme involving shady arms dealer Carson Welch (Bill Murray).

Writer-director Cameron Crowe threw a luau and invited Hollywood's most likeable people - Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper and Bill Murray among them - to come sprinkle a little charm on this South Seas bash.

He spared no expense to make the party look right. There are ukulele bands playing authentic old-timey music and women dancing the hula. There are long takes of lush mountains and even longer discussions about the old gods who walked the sacred earth of the islands.

That sums it up: At times, the movie feels like a crush note to island primitivism that goes badly awry, becoming another white-saviour story (Dances With Wolves, 1990; The Last Samurai, 2003). But mostly, it looks like an expensive Polynesian theme party to which the audience has not been invited.

Brian Gilcrest is the archetypal Alienated Modern Man, who finds healing via two of movieland's most tired tropes - the Manic Pixie Dream Girl played by Stone's Captain Ng; and the Noble Savage, here represented by back-to-nature Hawaiian nationalist activists (it seems that "city Hawaiians" are not Hawaiian enough to fix our hero).

Cooper and Stone exude huge quantities of charm and their romance is helped by Crowe's unerring soundtrack song choice, but there is tedious inevitability about their eventual pairing that the script cannot shake off.

By the way, Stone's character is Allison Ng because she is part Chinese, part white and part Hawaiian. That non-white part of her is crucial to the story as her racial heritage gives her access to ancient truths because in Crowe's world, one's spirituality is carried in one's genes.

So, even if Ng looks nothing like the Ngs you know and every dialogue mention of her name sends you hurtling out of the world of the movie, just take it for what it is.

Oscar-winner Crowe belongs to that small club of film-makers whose dramas and comedies reap awards and gold at the box office (Almost Famous, 2000; Jerry Maguire, 1996). Some of his other movies are cult hits (Singles, 1992; Vanilla Sky, 2001).

Lately, he has hit a cold streak (Elizabethtown, 2005; We Bought A Zoo, 2011). This meandering trip to the sunny isles adds no heat to his resume.

johnlui@sph.com.sg