'Aloha': What the Critics Are Saying

Cameron Crowe's latest dramedy finds military defense contrator Bradley Cooper entangled in a love triangle with Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams.

Aloha follows Bradley Cooper as a military defense contractor who rekindles an old flame (Rachel McAdams) while igniting a new one (Emma Stone) in director Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy — which is set in Hawaii, a controversial choice.

Amid the fanfare of summer blockbusters, Aloha is expected to take a back seat at the box office — or rather, fight for the third seat. While the film aims for a long and steady run, optimistic analysts predict a $12 to 15 million opening with more modest predictions set at $8 to 10 million.

See what top critics are saying about Aloha:

The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden writes, "If one thing is clear in the deeply confused Aloha, it’s Crowe’s affection for the Hawaiian landscape and native culture. His off-the-tourist-track look at Honolulu abounds with intriguing views of unexpected terrain and offers a glimpse of the indigenous population’s independence movement. All of which suggests a far more compelling movie than the muddled redemption story he’s made.” Of the leads, “It’s a triangle built on down-to-earth dazzle. But with the screenplay’s strained whimsy and pathos, not to mention its unpersuasive, at times incoherent musings on the politics of space exploration, Crowe squanders the star power at hand. ... The chemistry is mostly forced, the story without an emotional core. And though Crowe’s facility for language can be striking, here it never moves beyond self-consciousness. The cast will entice audiences, but Aloha looks destined for a relatively quick hello-and-goodbye in theaters.”

Additionally, “if Aloha’s earthbound elements are uneven, its rocket-launch aspects are downright confounding. The movie enters a weird orbit around covert missions and weaponized payloads. In the strangest sequence, Crowe bares his rock ’n’ roll heart — the passion that made Almost Famous such an affecting portrait of fandom — and unleashes a digital collection of pop-culture artifacts as an antidote to the military-industrial complex. Whether as tech coup or crucial turning point for his main character, the scene feels desperately off-key.”

The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday claims, “Crowe — who gave the world such deathless lines as 'You had me at ‘Hello,’ the man who put the boom box in Lloyd Dobler’s defiantly upstretched arms — spends so much time running away from his roots in Aloha that he misses the point of his own movie. ... Aloha is such an inchoate mess, such a forced, insular, self-pleasing misfire, that plotting it out can be a challenge. ... The emotional hurdles are never higher than mere bumps, which Crowe quickly tries to smooth over with a patch of quirky dialogue, an adorable musical interlude or putting someone in a silly hat. In fact, the most improbably satisfying moments of Aloha belong to a blowhard general played by Alec Baldwin, whose most florid outburst against Gilcrest’s entitled self-satisfaction could easily be directed at the very movie he’s in. ... To quote Amy Pascal, the former Sony co-president whose hacked e-mails last winter revealed her lack of faith in Aloha: 'It never, not even once, ever works.' "

The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr says, “With the new film, Crowe’s unique touch — the generosity with which he views his characters, the human race, and the world in general — seems almost completely lost. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that a mess with good intentions is still a mess. … Stone is delightful, as always, but her character has been stitched together in a mad screenwriter’s lab: Alison is a tight-lipped martinet and a passionate romantic and a down-to-earth woman and a woolly-headed mystic (and a floor wax and a dessert topping). Stone and Cooper generate heat from scene to scene, but just as often he looks frightened as to who she’ll turn into next. … Despite a cheerful appearance by native Hawaiian activist Denny "Bumpy" Kanahele as himself and a thick patina of island mythology spread over the proceedings, Aloha is as generic as its title. The islands exist solely as an exotic backdrop for the pretty Hollywood haoles to play in. Business as usual, and I never thought I’d say that about a Cameron Crowe movie.”

The New York Times's A.O. Scott echoes nostalgia for the earlier Crowe, rating Aloha “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. … Crowe packs every moment with so many words, but very little coherent information. The discomfort of not knowing what's going on rots the overall experience, especially when the odd satellite defense subplot takes over. It sometimes feels like half the movie is missing.” However, "there are some lovely moments of humor and depth that do succeed. … McAdams and Cooper also have wonderful chemistry and a deeply felt wistfulness over their romantic past. Their scenes together are the film's rare bright spot and a reminder of Crowe's unique strength as an idiosyncratic voice.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips laments, “Despite a blue-chip cast, Aloha is just frustrating. It can barely tell its story straight, and Crowe's attempt to get back to the days of Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous is bittersweet in ways unrelated to the narrative's seriocomic vein. … The first encounter among Cooper, McAdams and Stone is so awkward and unsettled that it becomes the movie's own albatross.” However, McAdams “can make truth out of contrivance, often nonverbally, dramatizing contradictory impulses within a single moment. I found myself leaning into a kitchen scene between McAdams and Cooper; in the space of a few seconds, the actress activates her character's full array of concerns and regrets and conflicted feelings … Elsewhere, either the plot obstacles are phony or the characters accomplish too little.”