Box-of­fice hello for ‘Aloha’ not so warm

Cameron Crowe’s rom-com is No. 6 in its first week­end. Can it gather mo­men­tum?

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Oliver Get­tell oliver.get­tell@la­times.com

Cameron Crowe is no stranger to re­demp­tion sto­ries, from Tom Cruise’s sports agent in cri­sis in “Jerry Maguire” to Or­lando Bloom’s sui­ci­dal shoe designer in “El­iz­a­beth­town” to Matt Da­mon’s griev­ing wid- ower in “We Bought a Zoo.”

The direc­tor’s lat­est movie, the Hawaii-set ro­man­tic com­edy “Aloha,” once again cen­ters on a man — this time a jaded mil­i­tary con­trac­tor played by Bradley Cooper — try­ing to fig­ure out whether and how to put his life back to­gether.

But as “Aloha” emerges from its first week­end in the­aters, it seems that Crowe too is look­ing to get back on the right track: His lat­est ef­fort grossed an un­der­whelm­ing $9.7 mil­lion do­mes­ti­cally, tak­ing the No. 6 spot.

Go­ing into the week­end, “Aloha” was pro­jected to take in a soft $12 mil­lion to $15 mil­lion, and clouds of bad buzz were al­ready gath­er­ing. In re­cent months the film had been pushed back on the re­lease cal­en­dar and bad­mouthed by Sony ex­ec­u­tives in leaked emails, and more re­cently it came un­der fire for per­ceived cul­tural in­sen­si­tiv­ity.

Re­views were also over­whelm­ingly poor — it scored an abysmal 18% on Rot­ten Toma­toes. Va­ri­ety, for ex­am­ple, called it “un­ques­tion­ably Cameron Crowe’s worst film.” Even one of the few pos­i­tive ap­praisals, from The Times’ Mark Olsen, said, “With its un­guarded emo­tions and ro­man­tic earnest­ness, ‘Aloha’ seems out of touch with th­ese times, its pre-re­lease bad-luck run a sign of some core dis­con­nect.”

On the plus side, “Aloha” cost a rel­a­tively mod­est $37 mil­lion to pro­duce, so it could still make head­way in the com­ing weeks if word of mouth proves strong. How­ever that could prove daunt­ing: Movie­go­ers gave the film a lack­lus­ter B-mi­nus grade, ac­cord­ing to the polling firm Cine­maS­core.

A one­time teenage rock jour­nal­ist turned wun­derkind film­maker, Crowe has cer­tainly proved in the past that he can daz­zle movie­go­ers and crit­ics, with cred­its in­clud­ing “Fast Times at Ridge­mont High” (as screen­writer), “Say Any­thing,” “Jerry Maguire” and “Al­most Fa­mous.” How­ever, his out­put in re­cent years has been rel­a­tively sparse, and some­thing of a mixed bag.

The direc­tor’s pre­vi­ous movie, the 2011 fam­ily dram­edy “We Bought a Zoo,” boasted a starry duo in Da­mon and Scar­lett Jo­hans­son but didn’t make a big im­pres­sion on crit­ics. On the pos­i­tive side, it grossed a solid $120 mil­lion world­wide, on a $50-mil­lion bud­get.

That was a big im­prove­ment on “El­iz­a­beth­town,” Crowe’s 2005 film star­ring Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. A tragi­comic ro­mance about a trou­bled sneaker cre­ator and a free-spir­ited f light at­ten­dant, “El­iz­a­beth­town” flopped at the box of­fice and was panned by crit­ics.

“Aloha” comes as Crowe’s third nar­ra­tive film of the last 10 years — he also made the mu­sic doc­u­men­taries “The Union” and “Pearl Jam Twenty,” which did not get wide the­atri­cal re­leases. His last movie to cross the $100mil­lion mark in North Amer­ica was “Vanilla Sky,” back in 2001.

In hopes of drum­ming up sup­port for “Aloha,” Sony made the rare move of post­ing the film’s first eight min­utes on YouTube on Fri­day. In the clip, Cooper’s char­ac­ter says, “Fi­nally, I got a crappy sec­ond chance. At least I was go­ing back to Hawaii.”

Crowe will no doubt get an­other chance to win over movie­go­ers and crit­ics too. But it looks as though he won’t find his sal­va­tion in Hawaii — or at least not in “Aloha.”

Neal Pre­ston Columbia Pic­tures

STAR­RING IN the Cameron Crowe-di­rected “Aloha” are Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, cen­ter, and Rachel McA­dams. Crowe has been in a film­mak­ing slump.

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