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movie review: Larry Crowne

If you like, you can think of Larry Crowne as the anti-Transformers. It’s the opposite of an Event Movie for the summer season; instead, it’s an old-fashioned star vehicle, fashioned for the particular screen personas of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts by Hanks himself, who directed the film and wrote the screenplay with Nia Vardalos. (You may recall that he produced her breakthrough film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a decade ago.) As such, it’s easy to take and lightly enjoyable. One might even call it a “nice” movie, which will surely please one segment of the moviegoing audience and repel another. I just wish the film were a little—

—better.

Hanks plays a hard-working store manager who is suddenly downsized; it seems he doesn’t qualify for a management position because he never went to college. (He served in the Navy instead.) Forced to take stock of his life, he decides to enroll at a local community college.

There he makes new friends, including a sprite played by British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. She and her friends open Larry Crowne to a whole new world of experiences.

He also signs up for a class in informal public speaking taught by a world-weary Julia Roberts. She’s actually a very good teacher, but her marriage is imploding and she’s been numbing the pain with booze. Then she realizes that her new students aren’t a bad lot after all and are worth her time and effort—especially Larry Crowne.

There isn’t much more to the film. It has a relaxed feeling, and is populated by good actors, even in small roles. (Hanks is nothing if not loyal. Veteran military advisor Dale Dye, with whom he worked on Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, plays the guy who has to fire him. Nia Vardalos’ husband Ian Gomez runs the restaurant where Hanks takes a job as short-order cook. Of course, the star’s wife, Rita Wilson, has a small role as a bank manager; their son plays a pizza delivery boy.)

Whether you find the film too self-consciously cute is a matter of personal taste; there are definitely times that its whimsy seems forced. On the other hand, after several weeks of summer-movie bombast, it’s not so bad to sit back and relax with a harmless piece of fluff like this.

8 comments

  1. Daniel says:

    Just finished watching the movie with my wife. I am 51 years old and found the movie very entertaining. It's sad to read the comments about how the movie is not realistic. It's a feel good story and those who try to compare it to real life events are missing the point. If you like older style movies were you enjoy watching the facial expressions of the actors and a story that carries emotion, then you will not be disappointed. This movie is either liked or hated, no middle road here.

  2. mike schlesinger says:

    He wasn’t making minimum wage; he was a manager. Also, he’s divorced, so the house and car were obviously purchased when he was still married and there were presumably two incomes.

    For me, it started out shaky and got better as it went along. What most impressed me was how generous Hanks is as a writer/director, letting his supporting cast walk off with scene after scene. Has George Takei ever been better than as the imperious, self-obsessed economics professor? Ditto Cedric as the next-door neighbor and Valderrama as the gang leader? And Gugu Mbawtha-Raw shows she’s the real deal as his “irritating free spirit” classmate. Get this lady the starring role she’s way overdue for.

  3. Linda says:

    It is pretty stinky. Started out interesting when he loses his job but lost me when I am suppose to believe that someone making minimum wage has 1) a great car 2) a beautiful home. Even taking into account he is living in debt, it just is not realistic. People working at bottom rung jobs can hardly afford the lowest price apartment with room mates and can’t get loans. No wonder half the world thinks the streets are paved with gold here in the USA.

  4. shane says:

    As an over 50 man who DID in fact go back to school, this speaks for me and (I dare say) tens of thousands of discarded men or men who had a draft number.

    If you stop eating the pop corn and look closely, it has a lot of little things that do in fact outline what a two year college might be like-the kind that are now having their funding CUT in a time of high demand.

    Here is the real, “Transformer”-changing to the world, rather than having the world change to fit you.

    I will earn back its modest 30 Mil price tag and go on to have leggs. Anyone selling the T shirts? Will dump car for a Vespa, even if I can’t get the girl.

    Shane
    class of 2009

  5. Jeffrey says:

    I enjoyed this nice, modest film. As far as Hollywood being out of ideas, Norm, you’re gonna eat your words by the end of the year. You’ll see.

  6. Actor Tom Truong says:

    It’s interesting to see Julia Roberts in a comedy movie. I like her older movies better.

  7. Norm says:

    Tom Hanks is falling back into “fluff” rolls and Juila Roberts need only send her mouth to represent her. Hollywood is out of ideas, How about Tom Hanks vs. Megatron in a best out of 3 falls…?

  8. TinaD says:

    Still rings true…there are no happy endings in life, just doesn’t-suck-so-bad middles. Larry Crowne sells off his life to start over, at an age we were all told we should be rolling in our retirement accounts, doing the thing he doesn’t want to do (he told the Dean he’d had enough when the Dean proposed culinary arts so, of course, he ends up working the line in a diner) and the portents aren’t propitious if he’s letting someone else talk him into Econ, Speech, Comp I, and maybe tai chi… Still, he might sorta get the girl in the end, so there’s that. Those who are complaining about the house and car on the big-box manager salary are forgetting that, as a 20-year Sailor, Crowne should have a military pension, so layoff reduces him from two underpaid salaries to one. Plus he’s exactly the sort that would have believed the banks (love Rita Wilson as the nails-on-chalkboard-happy banker) back when they told him real estate was forever and refinancing was always a good idea.

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