Sunday, July 5, 2015

Summer Movie Season: Aloha

Top Gun 2 Casting Directors: Take note.

I’ve mentioned this before, but my favorite actor is Bill Murray. I can argue that there’s better actors, or even funnier actors, but my first memory at the movie theatre was still seeing Bill Murray in Ghostbusters. I’ve seen plenty of movies I’ve disliked that has had Bill Murray in it… I’m looking at you Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties… but I still can’t think of a performance of Bill Murray’s that I didn’t enjoy. From classics Ghostbusters to Groundhog Day to Stripes, to even clunkers like Larger than Life or even his brief cameo in Zombieland, Bill Murray has been a signal to me that there would be something in a movie that will make me enjoy it.

I’m happy to say that he keeps that up as the villain (I guess) in Aloha, a movie that… let’s just say needs some work.

Aloha is the story of Brian Gilcrest, (Bradley Cooper), hunky contractor who returns to Hawaii to do… contractor things, I guess. I think he had to negotiate a blessing from a local Hawaiian Chief, but don’t worry if you cant get this plot, there’s like, 90 others to follow as well. Anyway, there he reconnects with the one that got away, Tracy (Rachel McAdams) and her two precocious kids, one of whom we quickly learn is 12 along with the information that they broke up 13 years ago, and then we all feign surprise when we find out that she’s his daughter! (cue gasps. It’s ok, he learns how to be a father in the twenty minutes he gets this information. Brian is team dup with Allison Ng (Emma Stone) who’s 1/4 Hawaiian, and because she’s played by pale, blonde, Emma Stone, they remind you every few minutes that she’s 1/4 Hawaiian. (There was apparently more controversy around this because she doesn’t “look Hawaiian”. Made me sad to keep seeing more and more controversies pop up, because a good portion of the movie is discussing her lack of Hawaiian looking.) Anyway, Brian has to negotiate some kind of deal, get in the good graces of his boss Carson Welch (Bill Murray) finally, and… well, there’s a lot of stuff that happens in this movie. I’ll get to it in the review section. 

The rest of this post contains spoilers for a movie you probably weren’t going to see anyway. So, if you’re going to go see it, then do so, then read the rest of this review.

I like to start with positives, so let me start with a positive: the last twenty minutes of this movie would have been a fantastic movie. Most of the movie is the buildup to Brian discovering that Carson was actually going to put weapons up in his new satellite. Allison finds out about it because she happens to stop Tracy’s house one day when one of her precocious children, who’s obsessed with Hawaiian myths when the script needs him to be, accidentally films one of those weapons being loaded onto the satellite. Accidentally. Bringing into question a lot of things about security, because either this kid wandered into a secure location or they were doing it an event everyone was attending. 

Oh, and during these twenty minutes when Brian is getting is butt handed to him by everyone for destroying the satellite after launch, Allison doesn’t think to say “hey, I have evidence that will exonerate him.” Despite the fact that they’re now in love. 

Like I said, there’s a lot stuffed into this film. Let’s break it down a little bit.

On the one hand, there’s the reconnection of Brian and Tracy. It’s played well, and the hints that Tracy’s daughter is actually Brian’s and not her husband’s are laid out SO HEAVILY during the movie that when it gets around to the narrative point of actually revealing it, it’s not a revelation. It’s the opposite. Plus, it happens so incredibly late in the movie that the only resolution that we get to it is a sweet hug at the end.

Speaking of Tracy, her husband Woody, played by John Krasinski, is probably one of the best characters in the movie, and even his introduction is ruined. One of the running jokes is that he doesn’t speak, but Brian can understand him. The end of the movie features a subtitled conversation between Woody and Brian, both of them “not speaking” to each other. I wish this idea had been developed, because it was so hilarious, and it wired with the two characters. I mention that his introduction is ruined because it starts with a silent moment, then… he speaks! It’s almost as if it was added later. 

Then there’s the relationship between Allison and Brian. It’s actually organic, even if she starts off kind of wooden. It’s a nice relationship, and had the movie decided it was going to be just about that, it could have been a lot better movie. The problem is when ex-girlfriends and missile conspiracies pop up, along with the daughter subpot, it’s just too overstuffed.

Oh, and my favorite, Bill Murray. Yes, he’s the “Bad Guy” of the movie. He starts out as kind of good, the eccentric Billionaire of late Bill Murray movies where Bill murray has decided to play pretty much Bill Murray. His shift to evil is QUICK. Faster than we might have expected from any other movie. Suddenly he’s threatening Brian. It’s good acting, but again, way. Too. Fast.

The thing is, I do enjoy bad movies. Even mediocre movies. Seventh Son was terrible, but I’d watch it again, because that’s what it was: A bad movie. The problem with Aloha is that it has the potential to be a great movie. It has a million fantastic actors, all mentioned, and I haven’t even gotten to Danny McBride and Alec Baldwin. The problem is that it has potential. Potential to be a great movie. 

Let’s go back to those twenty minutes I said was great. In those 20 minutes, Brian: gets together with Allison, decides to do something about the missiles on board the satellite, destroys them, gets chewed out by Alec Baldwin (in a hilarious scene) loses Allison (he’s toxic), makes peace with his ex, finds out that he has a daughter, GETS exonerated for blowing up the satellite, makes nice with Woody, and gets back together with Allison. That’s the last twenty minutes. That doesn’t include Bill Murray getting arrested. Imagine that stretched out with more of the movie dropped, like the romantic tension between Brian and Tracy, and the second kid that we see bonding with Brian more and more to the point that it becomes uncomfortable, then dropped completely. 

This movie had the potential to be great. Sadly, it just sort of fizzled out. 

Five out of Ten. Extra point for Bill Murray’s dancing scene with Emma Stone.

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