Movies I Watch on Planes: Aloha


When Aloha came out, the world was quickly ready to say “Aloha” to it – as in “goodbye” not “hello.” (Am  I the first person to make that joke?) After all, Emma Stone is cast as Allison Ng, a character who proudly declares that she is one-quarter Hawaiian, one-quarter Chinese and half Swedish at least twice in the movie.

But, horrible whitewashing aside, I wanted to discover, as Forrest MacNeil would say, “Is it any good?”

It’s hard not to be slightly drawn to this movie as you’re in an extremely high altitude, the pressure on your brain increasing and nothing but airplane peanuts there to comfort you. It is, after all, a story about three pretty people in a really pretty place, doing mostly pretty things. In some ways, it’s a movie where the main conflict is a guy choosing between two women, which is a conflict as wrenching as the one in High School Musical, which is that the characters are too good at too many extracurriculars.

The film depicts a romanticized version of Hawaii, in the same way Woody Allen movies make the city “the other love interest.” It kind of reminded me of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which is annoying in the same ways.

At a glance, it seems like a lot of fun people are in Aloha. Jim from The Office is there. Bill Murray is there. Alec Baldwin. And the guy who plays Kenny Powers! But then you’re like, yes, these are all white people, definitely getting a feeling of twee white supremacy in this movie. I found myself assuming Allison Ng had originally been written as a character who was not half-Swedish, and that part had been tacked on to justify casting a white actress with blonde hair and blue eyes. (A quick Googling did not find proof of this though.)

I’m also, in general, against Rachel McAdams. She’s sort of like the golden retriever of actresses – safe, crowd-pleasing and looks great at baseball games. She also has a teenage daughter in this movie, which is either strange or I’m getting older and do not realize Rachel McAdams is too.

I generally like Emma Stone, although she seems kind of sad inside lately, and looks like her personal entourage is starving her. I didn’t find this to be a particularly “Emma Stone” role, since she’s usually sassy like Jules in Superbad and here she plays a horribly written wide-eyed girl whose main lines are just shocked praise at how amazing Bradley Cooper’s character is. Is she a manic pixie dream girl? Sort of, if they are allowed to be fighter pilots too.

This movie also made being in the military look really easy and fun. According to Aloha, most of what you do is drive around a beautiful island with a really sexy counterpart, feel the mana in the air, get drunk with the locals while secretly ripping them off, and occasionally reveal that you are also a talented hacker who works with NASA or something?

Also, John Krasinski’s character is mute sometimes, but sometimes not. I had a hard time following that.

So is Aloha good? It’s kind of like a Woody Allen movie without the self-conscious humor or clever character development. If you like watching Rachel McAdams cry because she wants a man to live up to her expectations so bad, you’ll definitely like this movie. But if you enjoy female characters who have good lines, or characters of distinct racial backgrounds played by actors of those actual racial backgrounds, it’s not for you. But the good news is, this movie got panned, so maybe it will become a cautionary tale next time a casting director wants to whitewash characters.

So Aloha, it’s been real but I will stick to Lilo & Stitch for my Hawaii fix, thank you.