Two new movies opened this weekend, “Aloha” and “San Andreas.” Naturally, I had to take them both in immediately. The fact that someone named Roger Moore (Tribune News Service) had seriously trashed the new Cameron Crowe flick in the local paper did not deter me after I saw the trailer (which I have posted below.) It should not deter you, either, if you are a Bradley Cooper fan.
Let me start out by saying I won’t be paying much attention to Roger Moore’s reviews, in the future, just as I did not pay much attention to Siskel’s, but found myself more in tune with Ebert’s. Moore even ended his scathing critical piece by saying “This feels like goodbye, at least to his major studio film career.” [He was referencing Cameron Crowe, the writer/director, who helmed such classics as “Say Anything,” “Jerry Maguire,” and “Almost Famous.”]
Yes, Crowe had as many misses as hits. “We Bought A Zoo” (Matt Damon), “Vanilla Sky” (Tom Cruise), and “Elizabethtown” were not good. That I do acknowledge. I also agree that the hymn to the Hawaiian culture embedded in the film was a bit much when you’re watching the film in the Heartland.(Davenport, IA).
However, after we agree on the annoying nature of the constant pushing of the myths and legends of old Hawaii (Crowe has settled there) and the reverential playing of old Hawaiian songs by old Hawaiians, you have to look at the cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski (“The Office”), Danny McBride and the young boy from “St. Vincent,” Jaeden Lieberher—well, with a cast like that and an Oscar-nominated writer-director who brought us some great films (and some not-so-great films), I’m in. I also watched the director of “St. Vincent” explain that Murray ended up in the movie because he bonded so thoroughly with young Jaeden, his co-star, that Jaeden talked him into taking a part in the film so they could do fun things in Hawaii. (In that respect, I have to give Roger Moore his due when he writes: “The film buff Hawiian resident Crowe has, in essence, made his ‘Donovan’s Reef,’ a movie John Ford and John Wayne did to celebrate Ford’s Word War II service in the Pacific, and to get a studio to pay for long tropical vacations for the cast and crew.” On that last point, Moore shoots and scores—at least in Murray’s case.
Contrary to Moore’s complaints, the movie has some truly amusing and romantic moments. Yes, there is some hamming it up (Alec Baldwin, Emma Stone and Bill Murray, I’m looking at you) but it also has an attractive, talented, likable cast that can turn ham into filet mignon if needs be.
Bradley Cooper plays a one-time Air Force space program officer, who was wounded in Afghanistan, semi-disgraced there (he took $100,000), and has bailed on the military to go to work for one of the new breed of space entrepreneurs (Bill Murray) who are supposed to be able to launch rockets as well as NASA did in its hey-day. The romance comes in the form of an old girlfriend (Rachel McAdams from “The Notebook”) who Cooper has not seen for 13 years, and a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young eager beaver who is described as one of Hillary Clinton’s “Stars”, Emma Stone as Captain Ng. Captain Ng continues to tell us that she is part Hawaiian, which does not show in her lineage at all, but nevermind about that. Her vast knowledge of Hawaiian myths, legends and customs, coupled with her natural charm, are going to make her an invaluable asset to Bradley Cooper’s character, Brian Gilchrist, who has been sent to Hawaii to do a “gate-blessing,” which is a little like asking Beyonce to play the local Holiday Inn. We do get the impression, as the plot moves us along, that war hero Gilchrist (Cooper) also has a previous friendly relationship with the President of the Sovereign Nation of Hawaii, Dennis Bumpy Kanahele, who plays himself.
Yes, we know that the eager beaver (Emma Stone) is, at some point, probably going to end up as Cooper’s love interest, and, yes, it does seem a bit abrupt when she does. More critically, Emma Stone is almost unbearably eager and hard-to-take in her interpretation of Captain Ng. We just know that when she lets her hair down and quits wearing that unattractive bun, Cooper is going to find her irresistible, but we are still curious about whether the lure of his old love (Rachel McAdams) is going to win out. The two have a lot of shared history, some of it not-so-romantic, and all of it contributing to problems in her current marriage (with 2 kids) to “Woody” (John Krasinksi).
I enjoyed Krasinski’s portrayal of a typical Clint Eastwood male who doesn’t speak to his wife, and the children (a teen-aged daughter and the young son who played Bill Murray’s next-door neighbor in “St. Vincent”) were well-cast. Alec Baldwin may have gone a tad nuclear in his rants, but Danny McBride (as “Fingers”) is good and there were some truly funny lines (one of them seen in the clip below).
No, it’s not “Say Anything” or “Almost Famous,” and, yes, Cameron Crowe is a bit reverential about his adopted home (Hawaii), but the movie was enjoyable and entertaining and proves why Bradley Cooper was nominated for an Oscar for “American Sniper.”
And now I will speak of “San Andreas” after I sign off on this rebuttal piece. Don’t pay that much attention to Roger Moore’s total trashing of the entire film. It’s still better than sitting through another Super Hero knock-off.