MovieMantz Review: ‘Larry Crowne’
First Published: June 29, 2011 12:50 PM EDT Credit: Universal Pictures
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- A ‘Crowne’-ing Achievement
“Larry Crowne” Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts Directed by Tom Hanks
Not too many directors could make a film about a middle-aged man who loses his job, has no family and defaults on his mortgage and turn it into the feel-good movie of the year, but that’s what Tom Hanks did with his second directorial effort in 15 years (since 1996’s “That Thing You Do!”). Despite being somewhat contrived, predictable and even a little silly at times, “Larry Crowne” is a glass-is-half-full kind of movie if there ever was one, and it has a funny way of growing on you to the point where it’s hard to resist its many charms.
In addition to directing, Hanks also co-wrote the screenplay (with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s” Nia Vardalos) and stars as Larry Crowne. He’s a super-nice guy who’s been working at a big box company since leaving the Navy, but when he loses his job, he’s blindsided by the sudden loss of his identity.
Burdened with way too much free time and mortgage payments he can no longer afford, Larry goes back to school to brush up on his skills and get his degree. Soon after enrolling at the local community college, he falls for Mercedes (Julia Roberts), a disillusioned public speaking teacher who’s married to a deadbeat husband (Bryan Cranston). But just when it seemed like life had passed both of them by, they soon discover that it’s never too late to start over.
Though it seemed obvious how the movie would play out, Hanks pulls a few strings to help separate “Larry Crowne” from most other romantic comedies. While trying to figure out how to reboot his life, Larry finds solace in his offbeat neighbors Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer) and B’Ella (Taraji P. Henson), a lottery-winning couple who runs a flea market out of their garage.
The quirkiness continues when Larry trades his giant gas-guzzling SUV for a much smaller scooter, only to bond with other scooter-riding students at his school – among them, the endearing Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her jealous boyfriend Dell (Wilmer Valderrama). Larry also has to contend with a strict economics professor (George Takei) who has no tolerance for cell phones in his lecture hall and an eclectic group of students in his public speaking class (one of them, played by Alan Cody of “The Pacific,” is hilarious).
The film is light on its feet and not for the cynical, but it works much better at establishing Larry’s relationship with these supporting characters than it does at developing his romance with Mercedes. Hanks and Roberts previously worked together in 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and their chemistry here is passable enough, but a stronger spark between them would have helped make up for some of the contrivances in their relationship.
With the country facing the worst economic crisis in more than 60 years, it’s nice to have a topical 99-minute movie that wears its heart on its sleeve and will leave a smile on your face long after the house lights come up. And if this is how Tom Hanks likes to direct his movies, I hope it doesn’t take another 15 years for him to step behind the camera again.
Verdict: SEE IT!
Copyright 2013 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.