Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay for Larry Crowne, a depressingly bland comedy about a downsized salesman who tries to re-imagine his life by attending community college.
Hanks also produced, directed and stars in Larry Crowne, but I’ll be damned if I could tell what appealed to him about playing a character who starts out as a smiling Gumpian goofball and winds up cool enough to attract the interest of Julia Roberts. Roberts plays a community college speech teacher whose course is supposed to change lives.
PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
The script that brings Hanks and Roberts together bogs down in supposedly colorful scenes in which Hanks’ Larry Crowne interacts with his neighbor (Cedric the Entertainer) and becomes pals with an attractive student (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who schools him in the art of being cool, which involves buying clothes at thrift stores, texting incessantly and riding around with other students on motor scooters.
Maybe Hanks & company thought that Larry Crowne would enable them to take a soft but telling look at the impact of a shriveling economy on a 20-year Navy vet who, at the movie’s outset, enjoys his work at a big-box store so much, he seems like a Panglossian idiot.
Hanks is far too likable an actor to be off-putting, and it’s nice to see Roberts work again, even in the role of a disaffected, mildly embittered college instructor in the midst of a bad marriage. But the screenplay doesn’t dig deeply into either character, opting instead for the cinematic equivalent of the kind of easy-listening music you sometimes hear in a dentist’s office. Not bad. Not good. Not much of anything.
I was hoping that Larry Crowne would be the summer movie that flew under the radar, providing an adult alternative to all the agitated summer junk ... er ... I mean blockbusters. Not nearly as much fun as Hanks’ first directorial effort, 1996’s That Thing You Do, Larry Crowne is barely detectable by radar. It feels as if the movie’s ambitions were downsized, right along with Larry’s job.