Do you remember a 2005 movie called “Elizabethtown”? Probably not. Named for director Cameron Crowe’s hometown, it was all over the map — literally. It starred Orlando Bloom as an Oregon shoe designer who costs his company billions, attempts suicide, learns that his estranged father has died in Kentucky, falls in love with flight attendant Kirsten Dunst, bonds with long-lost relatives and humors mom Susan Sarandon as she attempts a stand-up comedy career. The final act was a cross-country road trip for no apparent reason except to showcase the director’s favorite landmarks.
Crowe’s new movie “Aloha” has a similar lack of focus. Blessed with a stellar cast and idyllic locale, Crowe seems reluctant to waste anything, including his own half-baked themes. Among other things, the script is about love, war, real estate, paternity, volcano gods, atmospheric debris, Hawaiian sovereignty, the privatization of the military and the power of pop music to defeat a killer satellite.
That’s quite a lavish luau, yet the individual courses are meager.
The way that this much-edited film has been sliced and diced, it’s aggravatingly unclear what’s going on, but here’s our guess: Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is a wounded veteran of the Afghan war who is now working for satellite mogul Carson Welch (Bill Murray). Brian returns to his former home base on Oahu to organize a ceremonial blessing of a new military facility. In Honolulu, he reconnects with long-ago love Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is now raising two kids with soldier Woody (John Krasinski). Pulling Brian in the opposite direction is his caffeinated chaperone, Air Force Capt. Allison Ng (Emma Stone). So it seems like a romantic comedy. But then there’s all this other stuff.
To secure the ceremonial blessing, Brian has to negotiate a land deal with the self-declared king of Hawaii (Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, playing himself). The continuing Hawaiian resistance to American rule is a fascinating subject and worthy of its own movie, but here the visit to the militant compound is just a dash of local color, as quarter-Hawaiian Allison plays hula music and muses about the clutter in the sacred skies above.
One problem here is that Stone is in kooky-character mode, while McAdams embodies a bittersweet realism and Cooper swings between the acting styles of his two co-stars. (Meanwhile, fourth banana Krasinski is stuck in a role where his reluctance to talk is a dumb running gag.)
Music maven Crowe tops this pineapple upside-down cake with a nutty subplot about saving the world with the ultimate mix tape.
The setting and offbeat tone may remind some viewers of another recent comedy, but whereas “The Descendants” was a substantive meal, “Aloha” is a pu pu platter.
What “Aloha” • Two stars out of four • Run time 1:40 • Rating PG-13 • Content Some adult language