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Aloha (Blu-ray Review)

14 Aug, 2015 By: John Latchem

Street 8/25/15
Sony Pictures
Box Office $21.07 million
$26.99 DVD, $30.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for strong language including suggestive comments.
Stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin.

Cameron Crowe is a long way from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Almost Famous. The writer-director’s latest vanity project, Aloha, is a perfectly pleasant viewing experience, it just doesn’t have any bite to it. The cast is terrific and the actors enjoy good chemistry together, but the story doesn’t give them much to do aside from smile and toss meaningful gazes at each other.

Bradley Cooper plays a soldier-turned-contractor who returns to Hawaii on behalf of his new employers to help make nice with the locals over an expansion of the military base. This brings him back into contact with a lost love (Rachel McAdams) while introducing him to a potential new one (Emma Stone).

Cooper works for an eccentric billionaire (Bill Murray) who is planning a private satellite launch that may be the source of some controversy. The movie isn’t really as concerned with the particulars of the plot as it is how the characters get along.

While the script might have something to say about the shift toward privatization in space travel, and Crowe based a lot of characters on people he met doing research for it, the end result is pretty much just another tale of a world-weary local boy who returns home after years away, only to learn what he’s been missing in his life was there all along. Aloha offers up a few revelations that might be meant to be surprises, but it telegraphs them so obviously it probably assumes the audience would guess what they are anyway.

The Blu-ray includes several minutes worth of deleted footage, including an alternate beginning and ending, all of which kind of support an idea that the film could have probably been edited together in a dozen ways without the differences having much impact on the strength of the finished product.

This is actually a pretty loaded Blu-ray for a film that’s so low key, with more than an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a feature-length commentary track from Crowe. At least the cast and crew got to enjoy a few months in Hawaii, which translates to some nice visuals.

The most interesting aspect of the film is a subplot involving a village of native Hawaiians who have declared themselves an independent nation with ties to the original Hawaiian kingdom. This is a real village and their actual leader plays himself in the film. As explained in the bonus features, they were granted autonomy following a land dispute in the 1990s. That sounds like it would have been a much more interesting subject for the film.

There’s also the matter of the so-called controversy about the Stone character supposedly being part-Asian despite being played by a white actress. Within the context of the film the complaints seem more like a nod to political correctness than any actual problem. The whole point of the character is that she looks so completely Caucasian that she is constantly reminding people that she’s one-quarter Hawaiian, as if to boost her street cred. Crowe based the character on a real person, and who can blame him for wanting to cast the best actress he could find in the part.

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