Tom Hanks directs and stars in Larry Crowne, a happy-go-lucky tale of self-discovery. He’s a marvel of an employee at the big-box company where he has worked ever since leaving the Navy as a cook. Crowne is the type of worker any boss would dream of having: optimistic, hardworking, and warmhearted. However as the economic depression takes its toll on the company, Crowne is downsized because of his lack of education.
With a mortgage that is steep and a wife who has left him, Larry must figure out what to do with his life. Instead of sulking about his problems, he enrolls at the local community college. Being the likable person he is, Larry makes friends in spades, instantly getting himself into the good grace of a gang of scooter riders, and develops a crush on his speech teacher, Mrs. Tainot (played by the lovely Julia Roberts).
Tom Hank’s second directorial effort is a harmless affair, one that will please most audiences, but is far too conventional in its storytelling and never leaves its predictable, cliched realm. This poses problems as relationships are formed (Crowne and Tainot) and personal conflicts within minor characters (a younger student who’s befriended Crowne, but is not sure whether to stay in school or drop out and create her own retail store) are uninteresting and derivative. So the story transpires and if you have seen the trailer, you know exactly what will happen. There is no need for me to spell it out for you. Simply put, you get what you pay for.
Every character in the picture feels like an outline rather than fully fleshed out people. We know who to root for, sadly our affirmation is not whole-hearted. This starts with the two leads, Hanks and Roberts, whose sudden romance is unexpected and not entirely believable. Tom Hanks does a nice job as the protagonist but like Tom Cruise in so many of his films, Hanks can’t get out of being, well, Tom Hanks. Larry Crowne is simply not a believable figure. Sympathetic and endearing, sure. But a man who has accomplished so much in his life and has obtained such a dedicated working mentality, would never be caught dead working at a Walmart-like store. Again, we suspend disbelief.
Next to him, Julia Roberts is delightful, as always. Like last week’s teacher Cameron Diaz’s Elizabeth Halsey (Bad Teacher), Tainot is a confused middle-aged woman with a husband who has been on a three year hiatus from writing and stares at porn all day. My question: where do all these attractive teachers come from? They’re practically non-existent in my school. I suppose that’s Hollywood for you.
The bottom line is Larry Crowne is one of the more middle-of-the-road pictures you will see this year. It’s a film that is well-meaning, has values, and gives the audience lessons on reinvention and how it is never too late to make a change. Larry Crowne, the character, is so open to new ideas, embracing them in most cases (with of course initial skepticism). That’s why it’s a disappointment when Hanks’ writing and direction is lazy, formulaic and uninspired. Another note that falls short is the fact that Hanks and Roberts aren’t given a plot that is worth their respective talents. It’s a shame.
Larry Crowne has quality ideas, just hardly any of them are properly implemented or harnessed. While Hanks may be one of the most prolific and beloved actors of the past 20 years, his work behind the camera is lackluster. Enjoyable as it is affectionate, this is a crowd-pleasing affair that suffers from forgettable direction and a script that’s calculated from beginning to end.
Notes: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content, 99 minutes.
You can follow me on twitter @DukeSensation. Thanks for reading.