If ever there was a movie that came to its release date with what affectionately is known in the industry as bad buzz, it’s Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy Aloha. Of course, it didn’t help that Sony was hacked and negative comments went viral in leaked emails from then-studio head Amy Pascal that certainly damaged the perception of the film from the Oscar-winning writer-director of Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Say Anything (that is really something since she presided over some of the worst big studio comedies in recent years — yes, that means you, Adam Sandler and Paul Blart). Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon originally were to star, but they dropped out and the script evolved. The film’s planned 2014 holiday release, which made sense because the movie is set at Christmastime, was bumped to late May.
Earlier this week some locals in Hawaii also started attacking the film sight-unseen, causing Sony to defend it even before Tuesday night’s first press screening. The studio embargoed reviews until this afternoon, just hours before it opens to the public in Thursday night previews — never a good sign. Crowe himself made the almost unprecedented move of showing up at the press screening at the Grove in Los Angeles to introduce the film and, in fact, address some of that bad buzz in front of critics. Bottom line is that he said he is enormously proud of the film and that he meant it as a love letter to Hawaii.
So Aloha might have a hard time with some critics seeing an opportunity to pounce. It sadly is the nature of cinema in the Rotten Tomatoes age. But as I say in my video review above, Crowe’s “love letter to Hawaii” had me at hello. I confess I have a soft spot for Hawaii-set films and this genre (I even got married in Hawaii and return every year), but I also am a fan of Crowe’s brand of moviemaking. I hate to knock the rare major studio movie aimed at grown-ups in a summer full of superheroes, earthquakes and dinosaurs. And thankfully, I don’t have to. Crowe clearly is a romantic at heart and has created an intriguing film dealing with a man whose personal life is caught somewhere in the middle between his past and future. The story centers on a hotshot military contractor (Bradley Cooper) who finds himself at an intersection in his own life between a former love (Rachel McAdams), who now is married and the mother of two, and a potential new love (Emma Stone), the scrappy Air Force captain assigned to accompany him on his return to Oahu and the site of some of his great past triumphs with the U.S. space program.
The supporting cast includes John Krasinski, in a terrific hangdog performance as McAdams’ husband; Bill Murray; Danny McBride; and Alec Baldwin as a hilariously over-the-top Air Force general. Some of the plotting does get a big convoluted at times, but the core of the film is solid, and Cooper, McAdams and Stone deliver complex people I liked spending a couple of hours with. Given half a chance, I hope there is an audience out there that just might agree with me. If not, I still thank Crowe for this unexpected visit back to the islands.
Do you plan to see Aloha? Let us know what you think.