Imagine a candlelit dinner prepared by a top chef and served on the sands of a sparkling beach. Now imagine that the dinner has been boiling on the stove for something like two years and you've got "Aloha," a botched romance from Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire") starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone. Whatever "Aloha" started out to be, it's been overcooked into an unidentifiable, inedible mush.
Somewhere between the film's first days of shooting in 2013, its scuppered Christmas release last year and its arrival in theaters this weekend, something went terribly wrong. The film's title, which wasn't officially announced until February, is as good -- or as bad -- as any given that the film has no idea what it's about. It has something to do with opening oneself to love while atoning for the past. Or maybe "Aloha" is about the exploitation of native peoples by a corrupt military. Or is it about family? All right, "Aloha" it is.
Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a military vet who returns to Hawaii to find that his old flame, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), has started a family with his colleague Woody (John Krasinski). Gilcrest is now working for billionaire Carson Welch, who is either a lovable do-gooder or a despicable warmonger; no spoilers, but Bill Murray plays him one way while the script says another. Meanwhile, Gilcrest is intrigued by young Air Force Captain Allison Ng, played by Stone as an uptight careerist with a mystical nature, if that makes any sense.
Crowe, whose "Jerry Maguire" gave us such immortal lines as "You complete me," is on sincerity overdrive here, but his characters are such weird contrivances that the dialogue turns sour in the actors' mouths. "Would you stop getting more beautiful?" is not a quote for the ages, it's an atrocious pickup line -- and because it's delivered in the film's opening 10 minutes, it wrecks the romantic tension we were hoping for.
"Aloha" is one of those films whose characters behave and speak so irrationally that they no longer make any human sense at all. Crowe may have had us at hello, but he's losing us with "Aloha."