Bradley Cooper, From Alias to Aloha: Bleach-Blond Star Gushes About His 1st …

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Aloha’ waves goodbye to coherence.

Our love for “Say Anything,” “Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire” made us embrace the big romantic gestures and faint traces of heart in “Elizabethtown,” “Vanilla Sky” and “We Bought a Zoo.” But “Aloha” is a breaking point, a movie that makes you start to see the guy as just, well, full of it.

In the middle of Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” a character is revealed to have had an extra big toe accidentally stitched onto his own after a combat accident.That the latest from writer/director Cameron Crowe isn’t a total disaster can be credited to players whose charisma helps paper over the screaming holes and loopy notions marring the doddering screenplay. Whatever it was going to be — and editing has been a Crowe problem since 2005’s “Elizabethtown” — “Aloha” has been reduced to a lurching Hawaiian comedy full of big name actors making long, rushed speeches.

This illogical surgical snafu is emblematic of the film itself, a jumble of too many plots involving characters who almost never talk or act like real people. These performers are just good enough to wrest a few memorable moments from the general chaos of an eccentric romantic comedy that isn’t particularly romantic or funny.

It jumps from economic commentary to an old romance to a new romance to Hawaiian nationalism to mysticism about the spirit world to an ending so blithely nonsensical a Pixar movie would reject it. Where’d you go, Cameron Crowe? “Aloha,” the writer/director’s latest sort-of romantic comedy, limps to the screen with such flat-footedness, you wonder how its creator ever achieved such heights as “Say Anything” and “Almost Famous.” Its highlight, I’m sorry to say, is a moment in which an irate Alec Baldwin (maybe he just read the script?) addresses Bradley Cooper as “Mr. There are grand, romantic speeches that will endure forever from Crowe’s earlier work — “Jerry Maguire,” “Say Anything . . .” — but you can’t build an entire movie on them. Crowe wastes Bradley Cooper, whose indifferent performance makes his work in “The Hangover” seem complex, and capable actors – Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, John Krasinski – stuck in unfleshed parts.

Three-Day Beard Boy.” This is rather delicious, to be sure — I may never look at Cooper and his movie-star fuzz again without hearing Baldwin thundering — but really, is that all there is? Nobody wants two hours of “You had me at hello.” Bradley Cooper’s Brian Gilcrest, a military man-turned-private contractor, is an identifiable relation of Maguire’s: “A brilliant, compelling, innovative, commanding wreck of a guy.” Back in his home state of Hawaii to service the expanding telecommunications footprint of his eccentric billionaire boss Carson Welch (Bill Murray, expertly playing Bill Murray), Gilcrest is assigned an Air Force escort, for reasons I’m still trying to work out, in the form of Emma Stone’s Capt. 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. It’s just another fascinating mess from an earnest and occasionally excellent filmmaker who can’t seem to recreate the enveloping magic and charm of his earlier films. The regular business involves Bill Murray as a puckishly unshaven (am I sensing a theme here?) gazillionaire industrialist who’s Brian’s boss; the unfinished business centers on Tracy (Rachel McAdams), the Girl Who Got Away some 13 years ago.

Stone wears her “Top Gun” flight suit and Ray-Bans like a champ, but she’s supposed to read as too-eager and dorky — and it just doesn’t fly (so to speak). “Can you think of a way to make ‘I’m a fighter pilot’ sound sexy?” she responds when asked why she’s single. Brian’s assignment is to look up his old friend, the king of the nativist Nation of Hawaii (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele, playing himself), and secure said blessing.

This photo provided by Sony Pictures Entertainment shows, Bradley Cooper, left, and Emma Stone, in a scene from Columbia Pictures’ “Aloha.” The movie releases in U.S. theaters on May 29, 2015. (Neal Preston/Sony Pictures Entertainment via AP) (Neal Preston/AP) “Aloha” was cut off at its knees from the start as one of the unwitting victims of criticism from sharp-toothed executives in last year’s Sony hack, leaving Crowe fans wondering just how bad the film could be. She’s now married to a cuddly silent type named Woody (John Krasinski), but her 12-year-old daughter bears an uncanny resemblance, we’re unsubtly informed, to Brian. After all, he had a charming, of-the-moment cast, a compelling-on-paper story about a man reconnecting with a longtime ex while also falling for a pretty young thing and an idyllic location to work with. Brian is back in Hawaii at the little “Mayberry of a base” where he was once stationed to talk the natives into blessing a gate that’s being moved so big rockets can be moved from location to location.

Meanwhile, fighter pilot and military captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), assigned to baby-sit Brian during his mission, falls for him, which she expresses primarily by calling him “sir” a lot. 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. This is a lot of plot, and virtually none of it is believable, even considering the heft of this cast — you’d think this gang could make anything sing, wouldn’t you?

They have a daughter (Danielle Rose Russell) and a precocious son (Jaeden Lieberher) obsessed with Hawaiian mythology, in a plot quirk that never really pays off. Brian has lingering feelings, and Tracy’s marriage is in trouble, because Woody never talks — perhaps the worst thing you can say of someone in a Crowe movie, where nervous rambling doubles as foreplay. The arrival of her old flame — even in his semi-decrepit condition — exacerbates Tracy’s doubts about her marriage and a husband whose verbal communications are painfully limited.

The story, briefly, is about the once idealistic Brian (Bradley Cooper) who sold his soul to a military contractor (a nearly comatose Bill Murray) and has returned to Hawaii for a job. Meanwhile, the increasingly dubious work mission involves convincing a native Hawaiian community to allow use of land and air space for a satellite launch. The Crowe who justly won an Oscar for the script of “Almost Famous” would not have written the line “You’ve sold your soul so many times no one’s buying any more.” Nor would he have created a scene where Cooper and Krasinski converse in “man-speak,” touching each other’s shoulders meaningfully while subtitles explain their thoughts.

Allison starts out all spit and polish with a salute so sharp it snaps air molecules, but after a few days as Brian’s wingman her military bearing turns all gee-whiz girly. Crowe flits restlessly among too many topics; Hawaiians who want to expel white haoles from their land would make a fascinating story, but it’s wedged in here as a gimmick. (I did like the T-shirt that read “Hawaiian by birth, American by force.”) And the sentimental streak Crowe has always shown no longer has irony to temper it. We never learn enough about Gilcrest to know why a former flame carries a torch after 13 years, or why Ng – who stands for everything he seems not to believe – loves him at a first meeting.

All this, plus some dialogue that’s occasionally “50-Shades-of-Grey”-without-the-sex-bad (“I don’t want to wind up a decal on your laptop,” says poor Captain Ng, earnestly), and the result is a movie that’s well-meaning but nearly unwatchable. There are a handful of moments to relish: Murray and Stone memorably take to the dance floor for Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That.” Alec Baldwin bellows insults as a perennially irritated general. But given its Hawaiian setting and soundtrack, “Aloha” mostly feels like a descendant of Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” — and a minor one at that. And Cooper — who seems pretty dour this time around — has a fine, funny scene explaining to Tracy how her husband communicates eloquently without actually opening his mouth. 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.

Danny McBride plays a base commander with all the restraint he brings to the role of an alcoholic baseball player (which is to say no restraint at all); Alec Baldwin shows up as a general who’s more Jack Donaghy of “30 Rock” than Omar Bradley. Sadly, in this case, “Aloha” doesn’t mean “hello” or even “welcome back, Cameron Crowe.” It feels more like good-bye, at least to Crowe’s career as a major studio film director.

Thank heavens for Stone and McAdams, who inhabit their roles with far more conviction than this effort deserves, and for Krasinski, who exudes decency without having to say much of anything. Crowe has a knack for writing good female characters — Tracy comes pretty close — but the childlike Ng is not a person who has or will ever exist. She speaks in a clipped, grating staccato that’s only ever softened when waxing poetic about her Hawaiian heritage and the spirituality of a clear sky. But perhaps this is the earnest failure Crowe needs to get back in gear. “Aloha,” a Sony Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some language including suggestive comments.” Running time: 105 minutes.

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