Larry Crowne

14 Jul

Title: Larry Crowne
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Tom Hanks
Writers: Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos
Starring: 
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wilmer Valderrama, Bryan Cranston, Pam Grier, Rita Wilson, George Takei
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, brief strong language and some sexual content
Runtime: 
98 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
36%

 

I had heard some not great things about Larry Crowne before I watched it, and upon finally getting to watch it, I understand the complaints people were making. I mean, the film is truly flat and just way too ordinary and predictable, that I actually thought fell rather out of touch with the reality it was trying to touch upon. But, as those who have been reading my reviews for a while now might know, I was sort of predisposed to like this film because of the sheer fact that Julia Roberts stars in it. I have a thing for Ms. Roberts, I just think she’s the most talented/gorgeous/likable woman around, a true definition of a movie star who with her name alone can get me into the theater to see anything she’s in (I even gave last year’s Eat Pray Love a B+ mostly because it meant over two hours with her), so yeah, I was bound to like this one, too. Not to mention that Tom Hanks is her co-star here, and you just know these two are great friends and the chemistry comes incredibly easy because of that and it’s just truly terrific to watch.

I didn’t like this one as much as I did Eat Pray Love though, because this one had mistakes that were far harder to overlook no matter how great Ms. Roberts was. And Mr. Hanks, another true movie star, not only stars in this one, but also produces it, co-wrote it with Nia Vardalos and directed it, his second feature-length directorial effort after the terrific That Thing You Do! back in 1996. But not even with Mr. Hanks hand all over it, which is usually incredibly reliable, can Larry Crowne escape from some pretty discomforting levels of corniness at times, no matter how charming its two leads may be. Though I will say one thing for it, and its that in a summer full of 3D-infused and CGI-heavy movies, most of which are sequels or some part of a franchise, this was a grown-up movie made as counterprograming for that, and even though it hasn’t been doing all that well financially, it has at least offered a solid alternative for adults who don’t care for superheroes, battling robots or a teen wizard’s final stand.

Ultimately the thing about Larry Crowne that prevents it from being great is that no matter how great its leads may be, and fun the premise seem, it’s a film that has little reason for existing because it’s just so bland and totally well-behaved that it really doesn’t do much else except just be there. And it gets to the point in which your level of caring for the film will be totally decided by just how much you like these two terrific actors and just how much you can appreciate the fact that a film starring two movie stars of their caliber in a grown-up story is a pretty damn rare thing nowadays. I fortunately love these two, and I really appreciated the fact that two over-40 stars were given the chance at a human story in which they got to more or less act their age, so I liked the film just because of that. Which says both a lot about Ms. Roberts and Mr. Hanks and not much about the film itself.

And it’s a good thing that the script doesn’t make these two characters the typical clichés of adults who are on the middle of the midlife crisis and totally hellbent on having fun before it’s too late. We get Larry, the title character Mr. Hanks plays, being fired from his job at a supermarket chain because he doesn’t have a college degree, and thus being jobless, divorced and with a considerable mortgage to pay. Ms. Roberts is Mercedes, a bitter woman in a very unhappy marriage who also happens to teach a course at a community college in which Larry enrolls to finally get the degree that cost him his job. You can predict easily enough how that evolves, at first she’ll hate this new student, but then in the second act she’ll begin to soften up for him and we’ll get the Julia Roberts we all know and love.

And while there certainly are a couple of timely and deep subjects here, like the nature of Mercedes’ horrible marriage, or the huge impact the massive levels of unemployment are having on the middle class, Larry Crowne only glances at them, and never really delves into far more complex ground, instead having fun just watching Tom Hanks attend college and having Julia Roberts ride behind him on a motor scooter. And that’s the thing that made this film totally squander its promise, the fact that it goes ahead and mindlessly avoids the harsh realities which it brings up in order to spend time addressing the superficial and cutesy moments we’ve seen too much of.

I will go ahead and give Larry Crowne a grade that suggests I recommend it, because I do, these are still Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks we’re talking about here and their likability alone will make the less than 100 minutes of this film go by rather quickly. But it’s totally discouraging that this two living legends paired up to give us a film in which the screenplay offered no real sense of conflict and just went by delivering schmaltzy routines that obviously play well to the ginormous levels of charm these two have, and it just lets us see the surface of the crisis of their characters and not the depths of them. But then again, there’s that Julia Roberts smile and everything is okay again.

Grade: B-

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