COURTESY NEAL PRESTON/COLUMBIA PICTURESBradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams star in “Aloha

COURTESY NEAL PRESTON/COLUMBIA PICTURESBradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams star in “Aloha

‘Aloha’ a hokey Hawaiian holiday

The charm can’t compensate for the shallowness in the romantic comedy “Aloha,” the new release from writer, director and fountain of positive spirit Cameron Crowe. Best known for perceptive, character-driven and quirkily original movies such as “Singles,” “Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire,” Crowe delivers on the level of his more recent, contrived “We Bought a Zoo” this time.

As with most Crowe fare, “Aloha” contains more sparkle than edge and features a protagonist who overcomes a setback or challenge, thanks to love. Music figures in, too.

Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a military contractor who, following a botched Afghanistan assignment, has a chance to resuscitate his career with a mission in Hawaii.

Upon arriving, he meets Alison Ng (Emma Stone), the high-energy young fighter pilot acting as his handler. He also encounters former flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to untalkative pilot Woody (John Krasinski) and has two kids.

Gilcrest finds himself attracted to both women. Tracy represents the past; Allison offers a chance for future happiness.

Gilcrest also faces a moral dilemma, involving a military satellite. He must decide whether to honor the interests of Hawaiian nationalist leader Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele (playing himself) or to comply with the demands of villainous billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray, in Zen-sleazeball mode).

Romantic chemistry happens all over the place in this movie, whose buoyancy results largely from the charisma of the cast. Cooper, Stone and McAdams supply the magnetism, while Krasinski’s near-silent but immensely aware Woody nearly steals the film.

Crowe’s funniest bits involve the unspoken dialogue between Woody and Gilcrest. Communicating merely with eye contact and body language, the men understand each other perfectly.

But unfortunately, the film’s appeal is purely superficial. As the story progresses, predictability and sappiness increase, and everything adds up to a formulaic Hollywood romcom elevated by good actors and a few inspired scenes created by Crowe.

While it is more than just love and luaus, the movie fails to take effective advantage of its setting. (It pales next to Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” in this regard.) And unless you include Stone’s Allison Ng, who is one-quarter Hawaiian (a heritage she mentions repeatedly as if needing to convince us it’s true), Crowe’s only significant Hawaiian character is Kanahele.

Rather than let this real-life leader speak deeply about a Native issue, or simply take part in a human conversation, Crowe presents him merely as a symbol and a plot device.

The film also misses the opportunity to explore experiences of military families and fighter pilots. Crowe doesn’t let Stone’s character convince us that she takes to the sky.

As for the music, Crowe includes everything from rock and pop tunes to 1960s space electronica to traditional Hawaiian music. Slack-key guitarist and falsetto singer Ledward Kaapana and 12-string guitarist and singer Mike Kaawa appear.

Alec Baldwin, as a yelling general, and Danny McBride as a colonel with compulsive fingers, round out the supporting cast.



two and a half stars

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski

Written and directed by: Cameron Crowe

Rated PG-13

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

AlohaartsBradley CooperCameron CroweMovies

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Nicole Canedo looks at her City-issued Medical Reimbursement Account page on her computer outside her Berkeley apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Canedo has worked numerous retail jobs in The City and the MRA has helped her with health costs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Millions left sitting in medical reimbursement accounts by city workers

Health officials looking at how to improve access, outreach as untapped funds reach $409M

49ers receiver Deebo Samuel picks up yards in front of the Rams defense after a reception in the 4th quarter at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood Sunday. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Rams can’t stop 49ers’ Deebo Samuel from catching defense off guard

Emmanuel Morgan Los Angeles Times Perhaps the Rams didn’t watch enough film.… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

Indecline, an art activist collective in San Francisco, transformed a billboard into an editorial with a message blasting immigration policies of Donald Trump’s administration. (Screenshot, Indecline website)
Has immigration fallen off the administration’s radar? Not a chance

Enforced as executive orders, Trump’s hardline policies are proceeding, against will of the people

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

Most Read