Larry Crowne Review
By Bret Dorman
Larry Crowne is a puzzling movie. Its not a low budget indie (Esitmate budget of $30 mil according to IMDB) but its not a big budget romp. Its not an introspective serious look on a middle age man but its not quirky enough to be too charming or comedic. Its a movie for adults without having sex, violence, or vulgarity which normally doesn’t sell therefore doesn’t get made in Hollywood. Its a passion project for adults who just want a lighthearted semi-comedy.
The Story: Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks), despite being a super cool guy and great worker, is fired because he didn’t go to college. After a very brief period of sulking he goes to Community College to get his life back on track. There he mets another down and out ‘adult’, his teacher the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Tainot (Julia Roberts) and gets some fashion advice from ‘kid’/aspiring entrepreneur Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Also, Bryan Cranston looks at porn a lot and gets in trouble for it!
Unlike the interesting and intimate look at a ‘man losing his job’ story that Everything Must Go took, Larry Crowne opts for one note characters and one note jokes. Larry Crowne is old! His neighbor is a wacky garage sale-sman! Julia Roberts drinks and fights with her husband! Pam Grier!
As I mention above, its just puzzling to see who this audience is for, but then again, in the theater I saw it at, there was a wide audience ranging from middle aged women to older couples who found many of the jokes funny. I guess for many of these people, the tired and recycled jokes don’t make their way into the movies they watch regularly. Tom Hanks just started dancing outside Julia Robert’s door after they kissed and she could see it through the peep hole. How charming…
The movie is actually co-written and directed by Hanks. This marks his very first feature film debut and it definitely seems like Hanks should know what he’s doing but that his producers still wanted to keep him on training wheels. The other writer is none other than “indie” “darling” Nia Vardolos (who wrote/starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Larry Crowne further proves her forte is writing ‘feel good movies about serious things with adult characters doing silly things’ for middle aged women and older couples.
This movie is formulaic and I do appreciate the attempts to try and make all the individual pieces quirky enough, but I could not get into it. However, the overwhelmingly good message and positive attitude this movie took made it hard to hate. Sure, its not something I ‘like’… but that doesn’t mean I have to ‘hate’ it.
Even though the President of the Community College decides to pop into Julia Roberts’ class at the weirdest times (is this supposed to ‘raise the stakes’ or be funny?) the final speech Tom Hanks gives is a real, earned moment of ‘good for him.’
In Conclusion, Tom Hanks is a nice guy. I don’t want to make fun of him or wish him any bad luck. Larry Crowne was not my cup of tea, but I’ll just leave it be. At the very least, Crowne gave Hanks a reason to go on all the late night talk shows, which was more entertaining for me anyway.
Final Grade: C-