[Screen It]

(2015) (Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone) (PG-13)

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Romantic Dramedy: A defense contractor returns to Hawaii to help get a local blessing for an expanded corporate/military joint space venture, all while falling for a young Air Force captain and having some feelings rekindled for his former girlfriend from more than a decade ago.
Brian Gilcrest (BRADLEY COOPER) is a former member of the Air Force who's since left to work as a defense contractor. His latest gig has him employed by billionaire corporate leader, Carson Welch (BILL MURRAY), who's about to launch a private rocket into orbit with the approval of the U.S. military and General Dixon (ALEC BALDWIN). Brian's job is to get the blessing of a local "king," Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele (DENNIS KANAHELE), who he's known for some time, to build the space base.

Brian arrives in Hawaii where he not only meets his old friend, Colonel 'Fingers' Lacy (DANNY McBRIDE), but also military liaison and current fighter pilot, Captain Allison Ng (EMMA STONE). He also spots his ex-girlfriend from long ago, Tracy (RACHEL McADAMS). She's now married to Air Force pilot John 'Woody' Woodside (JOHN KRASINSKI) with two kids, and despite a tumultuous relationship in the past, some feelings between them are rekindled.

Brian doesn't initially think the same about Allison and her go-getter attitude, but that also quickly develops into romance. With the launch pending and its payload a secret from most everyone, Brian must figure out whether to continue with his new flame or see if anything happens with his former one.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Back in 2011, writer/director Alexander Payne delivered to the world the cinematic gift of "The Descendants." That dramedy was about a man having to deal with his wife being in a coma, the discovery of her infidelity, the effects of all of that on his kids, and the decision of whether or not to sell lots of old family land in Hawaii to developers.

It was funny, heartbreaking, sweet and stellar on all fronts, from the acting to the writing, directing, cinematography, score and more. Not surprisingly, it garnered five Oscar nominations and was practically a multimillion dollar travelogue and advertisement for our nation's fiftieth state.

Now, four years later, another acclaimed filmmaker with some serious accolades under his belt is also using Hawaii as the backdrop for his own dramedy that has both similarities to and obvious differences from its predecessor. Unfortunately, Cameron Crowe's "Aloha" isn't as successful as Payne's offering any way one might look at it, and that's something of a disappointment.

After all, Crowe's the guy who brought us "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous." But he also delivered the more recent offerings of "Vanilla Sky," "Elizabeth Town" and "We Bought a Zoo," films that never lived up to high expectations built up by his two earlier flicks.

This one falls into the same category, although it's something of a mess in comparison to its cinematic companions. It's not without its moments, but it's not hard to see why former Sony head Amy Pascal had issues with the film in one or more of its earlier incarnations (as discovered in the leaked, hacked email exchanges from last year).

Part of that obviously stems from the odd inclusion of a major subplot involving a billionaire (a completely wasted Bill Murray -- meaning his talents, not that he was three sheets to the wind during the production) who wants to launch a private rocket (and secret payload) into orbit, all with the somewhat oblivious consent of the U.S. military (lead here by Alec Baldwin in a role that feels possibly cut down from some earlier, more fleshed out version).

All of that revolves around a former member of the Air Force turned defense contractor (Bradley Cooper, taking a step back a bit from his recent successes up on the silver screen) who's now working for the private launcher. He's returned to help coordinate the blessing of some never fully defined or described gate that will presumably be part of some land grab the government is doing for a future spaceport.

The supposedly interesting part of Brian's return is that he runs into his former girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) from more than a decade ago, and some unresolved issues and longings are rekindled despite the time apart. Throw in a gung-ho Air Force pilot and military liaison played by Emma Stone (in a weirdly written and performed character that's pretty much all over the thespian map), and things are presumably going to get entertaining from a romantic triangle standpoint.

Alas, they never do, and the film ends up feeling like it was shot from an impromptu, stream of consciousness first draft or was butchered and cobbled together by the filmmaker (or studio) desperately try to salvage something that people would connect with and want to see.

The latter is yet to be determined, but unlike what Crowe pulled off in "Jerry Maguire" and especially "Almost Famous," you never feel any sort of connection with these characters. Yes, the performers bring a fair amount of goodwill along with them, but that alone can't make up for uninteresting characters and their related story arcs, as everyone here feels like a two-dimensional movie creation rather than the real thing.

Even as a 100+ minute advertisement for Hawaii, it pales considerably next to Payne's flick, even with the inclusion of a decent local music as well as popular songs on the soundtrack. Presumably titled for both Hawaiian meanings of the world, "Aloha" will probably have viewers and especially critics wanting to say hello to it, but having no problem saying good-bye. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed May 26, 2015 / Posted May 29, 2015

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