Here are two movies to lighten up a summer day– ALOHA boasts a first rate cast BRADLEY COOPER, EMMA STONE, and RACHEL McADAMS in an offbeat Hawaiian love triangle written/directed by the quirky Cameron Crowe. At his best he gave us JERRY MAGUIRE and ALMOST FAMOUS and at his worst gave us ZOO. ALOHA falls somewhere in between and is better than what many critics are saying.
Cooper stars as Brian Gilcrest a military contractor who returns to Honolulu the scene of an earlier romantic crime where he reconnects with his former love Tracey Woodside played by the luminous McAdams; he is also assigned a military watchdog, pilot Allison Ng who is super-jacked on whatever morning people are jacked up on. Emma Stone is hilariously manic in the part as she first repels, then gradually gets under the skin of Gilcrest who has some old bones to lay to rest.
In fact, Gilcrest is on a mission to convince local spiritual elders to bless a site and move an ancestral burial ground in order to make way for eccentric billionaire (BILL MURRAY) to put a satellite into space. Crowe puts the sacred and the profane on a collision course that is not always easy to follow. Gilcrest and Allison find common ground looking up at the constellations, while on the ground Alec Baldwin as the hilariously volcanic General Dixon pushes for a military command center, and Tracey’s uncommunicative fighter pilot husband Woody, John Krasinski, the tall silent type, remains an enigma to his wife. He apparently speaks volumes that only Gilcrest in some of the film’s funniest scenes seems to understand.
Crowe conjures up an idiosyncratic microclimate where these wholly unique individuals almost seem to be speaking in code. Allison who is one quarter Hawaiian, liberally references Hawaiian mythology, as does Tracey’s son, while her young daughter Grace, as lovely as her name, learns traditional Hawaiian dance. Gods and goddesses seem to be watching over the proceedings and blow in on the wind at various turning points where Gilcrest and his conscience, the land, his deep past, and his future all come together. The last scene, a beauty, made me cry though no words were spoken. I was exhilarated by the weird magic of this world and cared about these odd characters even if I didn’t always know what they were talking about. Crowe’s reach is here more interesting than other people’s grasp; hang on to this one.
Then see SPY and laugh yourself silly. I LOVE MELISSA McCARTHY no matter what she’s doing. Here again she’s put to brilliant use by writer/director Paul Feig (BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT) as Susan Cooper desk-bound, back-up CIA agent turned action super-hero SPY in this wacky Bond spoof. Susan Cooper is suddenly thrust into the field and must go undercover to prevent a crazy Bulgarian arms dealer from selling a nuclear weapon to terrorists. Rose Byrne plays the evil arms dealing Rayna Boyanov in an hysterical assortment of towering wigs that look like they were styled by Dairy Queen.
Jason Statham in a send up of his own on-screen persona, is wildly nutty as a bungling agent determined to foil Susan’s plans because he just can’t stand that she’s doing his job. Their scenes together where he brags of his impossibly over the top exploits (like sewing his own arm back on after it was severed in the field) are excruciatingly funny. Jude Law is perfect as ultra-obnoxious 007-like stud Bradley Fine, and Carlos Ponce plays Susan’s libidinous driver, a groping heat-seeking missile of a perv.
Not as funny a script as either “Bridesmaids” or “The Heat” (the wonderful Bobby Cannavale as kingpin Sergio DeLuca is underutilized, and a bit with 50 Cent is half as funny as it should be) SPY nevertheless perks along and gives us plenty of opportunities for McCarthy’s flawless comic delivery, her assortment of disguises as spinster cat ladies who take stool softeners, to some jam-packed action sequences that find her disarming many bad guys at once and hanging from a helicopter. We know she can do it all. Next I want to see her running for president.