Movie review: Larry Crowne
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Opens locally Friday, July 1st, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Roxana Ortega, Brian Cranston, Cedric the Entertainer, George Takei
Co-written & Directed by Tom Hanks (That Thing You Do!)
"Larry Crowne" is only the 2nd feature film directed by Tom Hanks, but there is no sophomore slump here. I feel helpless to resist the disarming power of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts on-screen together...two of the flat-out most likeable actors of all time. How do you dislike any single thing they do? Well, I didn't have to try hard to like "Larry Crowne," the film or the character, and although not without it's flaws, I found myself mesmorized in a nostalgic haze that had me wondering where these two have been the past few years.
Of course, the answer to that is...extremely busy. Hanks of course was most recently the voice of Woody in the Toy Story films not to mention a producer on the HBO series "The Pacific," and Roberts most recently starred in "Eat, Pray, Love." The two appeared together in the 2007 "Charlie Wilson's War," but in "Larry Crowne" they return to the spirit more in line with a "Sleepless in Seattle" or "Pretty Woman" vibe.
In "Larry Crowne," Larry is a proud, optimistic worker at a Wal-Mart-style chain. He gets fired when the corporation does some re-structuring and finds that Larry doesn't have a college degree. He's also divorced with his home in foreclosure. Unlike Wil Ferrell's "Everything Must Go" character, Larry doesn't wallow in his sorrow...he decides to re-enter college to get that degree he never had. Julia Roberts plays Mercedes, a teacher at the college, and guess who winds up in her class.
More than anything, "Larry Crowne" is a film about the college experience, even if it doesn't intend that to be it's primary message. Anybody who has gone away to college knows that the greatest lessons weren't learned in the classroom, but in the experience of college as a whole. Larry befriends some fellow scooter-riding students, and begins to learn about himself in ways he never imagined. They teach him what's cool, what's not. They help him get organized and presentable. They show him what's important in life.
Just as Larry Crowne is learning to live life to the fullest, Mercedes' fire burned out a long time ago. She looks painfully bored with her career, her failing marriage (to Breaking Bad's Brian Cranston in a deliciously funny minor role), and her status in life. She wonders why her classes are mostly empty and why the few students that do show up hardly know the meaning of the word "care." Roberts must have had fun with the role...a drunk and depressed version of her usual cheery and peppy on-screen self. Lucky for us, we see this rare side of her, but don't fret...her infectious smile finds it's way through.
Of course, this is the irony of the situation...on the one hand we have Larry, without a job but rigorously optimistic about life. On the other hand, in Mercedes we see that happiness isn't easily attainable just by having a job.
There's a lot to like here. It may be remembered as the first film to capture the reality of texting, as we get a few subtitled scenes as Larry texts back and forth, instead of just talking with them. There are a bunch of great supporting roles, from Brian Cranston's porn-surfing hubby, to Cedric the Entertainer as a yard-sale entrepeneur. George Takei...Sulu, from Star Trek...has a great role as a familiar professor, and Hanks' real-life wife, Rita Wilson, has a few scenes as well.
Hanks breathes a light-hearted, positive energy into Larry and into the film. It's the kind of move where you can't help but smile your way through it, and it is endearing enough that you forgive the plot-holes and contrivances. I was so enamored with Hanks, and Roberts, that I noticed about half-way through that not much has happened, or seemed to be on the brink of happening. I was OK with that, since I was in such good company with such old friends.
"Larry Crowne" may not be remembered as a classic romantic comedy, but I found it to be a refreshing throw-back to the good old days. It reminded me how I missed both of these actors in these smart yet easily digestable movies. There's something to be said for star-power, and Hanks/Roberts packs a powerful punch sorely missing from today's rom-coms.
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