The fertile imaginations of director Barry Levinson, writer Mitch Glazer, and comedian Bill Murray strive mightily to mine the humor in a trip to, and televised singing contest in, Afghanistan. Here's the setup. Insolvent, perpetually lying rock talent manager Richie Lanz accepts a reckless offer to make desperately needed money through a USO gig in Kabul.
Oh, you want "Aloha" to be so good. You want to see Bradley Cooper's baby-blues and Bill Murray's, too. You want to cheer for Emma Stone as she parades in dress uniform and for Rachel McAdam in an apron and high dudgeon. But you can't. And won't.
Yes, "St. Vincent" is a formula, but oh! does it honor the guidelines. The formula is about the old gar and the young child. The geezer is usually a man, and the boy is usually a runt. The old guy is usually grumpy and grungy; the little man is polite and bullied.
George Clooney made a noble effort to tell the story of soldier/scholars sent by President Franklin Roosevelt to save the culture of Europe near the end of World War II. A noble effort, however, does not immediately translate to a fine film.
Film directors crave recognition as distinctive, unique voices and stylists. Add a bonus for entertainment value, and this achievement becomes exceedingly rare. But not for writer/director Wes Anderson whose signature defines his films as definitively HIS--a combination of an offbeat, appealing humor and an atypical, stylistic presentation. Anderson is, in essence, fresh and original.
Maybe if "Hyde Park on Hudson" had stuck with one main story, it would have succeeded, but in trying to tell two stories, and not telling either with clarity or purpose, the film becomes seriously flawed, although not less worthy of discussion as a film and history, albeit plastic.