It's a pretty fair question. This latest film from Cameron Crowe has largely been a mystery, having only received an official name just a few months ago, and even on the film set at Hickam Air Field, Hawaii, extras and the community were confused by exactly what was going on (I know, I was there while they were filming in December 2013). However, Sony Pictures came back to Hickam, to offer a free pre-screening that allowed me to view the film, and now share my thoughts with you.
The film itself is still a bit strange, and there are several points that I (and my wife agrees) felt that I missed something in the story's progression, leaving us confused. Like Crowe's Jerry MaGuire, ALOHA is a Romantic Comedy that centers around a professional that's fallen from grace, and develops a romantic interest with a woman he works with.
Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is an ex-Air Force officer who wanted to go to space, or at least be involved in the Space Program, as a Rocket Scientist. During his time in the military, he was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base (it recently changed to "Hickam Air Field" in the past 3 years, in case I confused you) on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii, and while stationed there he has/ends a relationship with Tracy (Rachel McAdams) (again, the movie is sometimes confusing, particularly with timelines). At some point Gilcrest separates from the military, becomes a contractor with NASA, but then Budget Cuts hit them hard in 2008, he then gets hired by billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) whose company acquires a government contract, causing Gilcrest to go to Afghanistan, is injured, believed to be dead (and apparently the whole world hears about him being "dead", but nobody hears about), yet he survives. With his life seemingly terminated, Welch apparently decided to terminate Gilcrest's employment. Since then, Gilcrest has been scrounge for any job he can get.
The movie picks up where Welch has apparently hired Gilcrest back on for a "probationary" project, as Gilcrest's last hope, planning to fully hire him on if Gilcrest performs well. Welch's company has signed a brand new deal with the Air Force, in which (again due to those earlier Budget Cuts) the military would give more responsibilities to civilians (like Welch Co.), specifically communications and monitoring satellites. Gilcrest arrives on Oahu, with the declared purpose to "help open a pedestrian gate" at Hickam Air Field, which theoretically will make it easier for civilian personnel (Welch's employees) to enter and exit the base, where it's initially indicated that the new Welch Co. command center for the satellites will be (even though later they LEAVE the base, and then drive to downtown Honolulu, to get to said command center). Apparently Gilcrest is the "right man for this job", NOT because he's a rocket scientist, but because he knows an influential Native Hawaiian, that Gilcrest needs to ask to perform a Hawaiian Blessing at the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Pedestrian Gate.
Despite having married another Air Force officer, Tracy is strangely still living in Hawaii, setting the stage for Gilcrest and Tracy to bring closure to their break-up. Gilcrest's military handler Allison Ng (Emma Stone), claims to be quarter-Hawaiian (I know, I laughed too), is a conflict of character as she is first shown as the "fast-burning" potential high-ranking office, but then clashes this later with a more Hawaiian-ish, laid back style, even going so far as to be completely unprofessional, especially as an officer in uniform. For some strange reason (again, I must have missed something somewhere) Ng falls for Gilcrest (who does not pursue her, if anything, she pursues him). A running set-up through the film is a Hawaiian spiritual prophecy and presence; while the prophecy seems okay, though with absolutely know pay-off in the end, the spiritual "presence" is randomly shoe-horned in with no purpose, and no explanation.
I had issues with the film, as soon as I heard that the official name was "ALOHA", thinking "Why would you use a word that's so tied into Hawaiian culture, yet your entire cast ensemble is white?" For those of you who don't know, there is no word or phrase that accurately translates or describes the word "Aloha". It means both "Hello" and "Goodbye" (which is what the film's trailer seems to suggest Crowe was going for in choosing the title), but can in a sense mean "Peace", "Good Feelings", "To be laid back", and yet it doesn't mean any of these. The word "Aloha" speaks of the Hawaiian culture, and the relaxed/chilled attitude the Hawaiians embody; really the word stands for everything it means to be true "Hawaiian", but none of that is demonstrated in the film.
Overall, the film seems hollow, without any real sustenance to chew on, and too many questions left unanswered, but the occasional laughs do at least make the film seem pleasant, in between segments where you're scratching you head trying to figure out what is going on. Unfortunately it seems that this film was made for the Hawaii-stationed Military audience, as the film takes way too many assumptions on what the audience does and does not need explaining. While I indeed am active duty Air Force, stationed in Hawaii, and therefore caught [most of] the elements of the movie, I constantly felt that I would have to explain a lot of things to people, even if they were in the Navy across the street in Pearl Harbor.
I would say this is a "middle movie": it's not great, it's not really good, but it's also not bad. The film is definitely worth watching, but I wouldn't pay the full evening movie ticket price; either catch a discounted matinee showing, or just wait to get it on Redbox/Netflix.
Final Note: Overall, I'm disappointed with Bradley Cooper's performance in this film, especially in light of much he just blew me away with his portrayal of Chris Kyle in American Sniper.