Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
What is it about a movie that doesn’t have anything really wrong with it, but yet still feels just…off. Not only is it hard to figure out but is also difficult to feel much of anything for it. Such a film is Larry Crowne.
Tom Hanks plays the titular character, a middle-aged divorcee who’s working in a big-box store. As has happened to so many people in the past few years, he’s fired. Not because they don’t like him, not because he’s not a good worker, but because the corporoids feels he has limited potential due to his lack of a college education. Larry Crowne is neither stupid nor lazy. He went from high school into the Navy for twenty years…as a cook. Although his skills are limited, he does apply himself to whatever he does. Larry decides, at the suggestion of his next-door neighbor, to try a community college. Without giving you any more information than that, you can probably write the rest of the story with very little effort.
Tom Hanks, who can be an engaging actor in the right role, seems distracted, like he has other things to do. Which is true, since in addition to starring in Larry Crowne, he’s also a co-writer, co-producer, and the director. Julia Roberts is his first teacher at the college, and it’s obvious from first glance that this relationship will develop. She’s burned out, disillusioned, and in an unhappy marriage. He’s divorced, with a mortgage that’s underwater, and unemployed. So I guess it just makes sense that happiness will ensue for our beleaguered stars.
There are many problems with Larry Crowne, including the bland, non-descript title. Universal Pictures is trying to sell it as if it were a comedy…which it isn’t. It has a couple of smiles and/or chuckles, but a comedy it ain’t. We do meet Julia Roberts’ character’s husband and come to understand her stuck-in-a-rut feeling. But with Hanks, there’s no background as to his failed marriage, if he has kids, what happened to cause the split, or anything else.
There are some decent performers in supporting roles, but they really don’t have much to do. Cedric the Entertainer is Hanks’ next-door neighbor, a retired game-show winner who now runs a perpetual yard sale. Pam Grier has a couple of scenes as Roberts’ co-worker at the college. Newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a young classmate who befriends Hanks has charm and beauty to spare, but the role could be played by any college-level drama major in her sleep. The most novel character is an economics professor as played by George Takei, who’s a long way from his Mr. Sulu days on TV’s “Star Trek.” His quirky demeanor is one of most interesting facets of the film.
Another problem is the script by Hanks and his writing buddy Nia Vardalos, from My Big Fat Greel Wedding fame. It seems to lack energy and fails to convey any real connection among the characters.
But despite all these problems, Larry Crowne is hard to dismiss as a bad movie. It’s not. It’s just not particularly engaging or memorable. If you want a romantic dramedy with a couple of big stars that is nothing more than an upsized Lifetime TV movie, you might enjoy it. If that’s not your idea of a fun night at the movies, then keep looking for something else.
The PG-13 rated Larry Crowne is now showing everywhere.