AT THIS POINT, you know what you're getting with a Cameron Crowe movie: a sad white guy trying to find himself, a series of on-the-nose music cues, and a bunch of great actors who don't get much to do. Crowe's made some good movies (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Say Anything...), and he's made some bad movies (We Bought a Zoo, Elizabethtown), and he's made at least one movie that stabbed out from his M.O., the prickly and weird Vanilla Sky. Aloha, though, delivers exactly what you'd expect: It's about a white guy who's very sad, and by the time it ends, music has literally saved the world.
World-saving comes only as an afterthought to Brian (Bradley Cooper), a contractor brokering a deal between a kajillionaire (Bill Murray), the Air Force (Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride), and Native Hawaiians. Why Brian's important here never makes a ton of sense (and things aren't helped by the bizarre fact that Murray basically plays a 007 villain), but no matter: The important thing is that Brian's sad, even when reuniting with a charming, beautiful ex (Rachel McAdams) or flirting with a charming, beautiful fighter pilot (Emma Stone). In the truest mold of Crowe protagonists, Brian's so sad that he can even be sad when he's in Hawaii and Emma Stone's falling in love with him and he's about to make a bunch of money.
Brian takes center stage, but Crowe crams a bunch of other stuff into the background: Aloha skitters and drags between being a semi-mystical tourism ad, a romantic comedy, a family melodrama, and an editorial about the creepy privatization of the military and space exploration. For too brief a time, it even offers a look at the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. To Crowe's credit, all these threads feel earnest, and a few even feel like they could offer something new and interesting. Hey, know what isn't new or interesting? Another sad white guy, waiting for the next song to get cued up on the soundtrack.