Monday, July 4, 2011

Movie with Abe: Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne
Directed by Tom Hanks
Released July 1, 2011

Certain films are made particularly for a certain crowd. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts were big, bankable stars in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. They both typically played strong, likeable heroes in a range of films, from the purely fun – like “Big” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” – to more challenging and award-winning – like “Cast Away” and “Erin Brockovich.” Neither has experienced nearly as much success in the twenty-first century, and their previous collaboration, Mike Nichols’ “Charlie Wilson’s War,” wasn’t all that superb. Now they’re back in a film tailor-made for their fans that is sure to please some and do nothing for others.

This is a film written and directed by Hanks, only his second time in either of those roles, following his 1996 debut, “That Thing You Do!” Hanks teams up on the script this time with Nia Vardalos, the architect behind the 2002 independent smash “My Big Fat Greek Wedding. A familiarity with Hanks’ typical lighter work and Vardalos’ signature film paints an accurate portrait of what “Larry Crowne” is, a comedy assembled just for audiences who love the usual roles held by Hanks, as a happy-go-lucky everyman, and Roberts, as a moody, sarcastic, independent woman.

What that means for moviegoers in general is a broad, predictable film that follows Larry Crowne (Hanks) as he bounces back from being laid off from his job and reinvents himself by enrolling in community college. Hanks plays doofy and doe-eyed well, and Roberts goes head-to-head with him as his eyeroll-prone public speaking professor Mercedes Tainot. Both play their roles well, but it’s not much of a stretch for either of them. The true entertainment comes from the supporting cast that embodies Crowne’s classmates, led by promising actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw of the recently cancelled “Undercovers” and also including Malcolm Barrett, Rami Malek, Grace Gummer, and Wilder Valderrama.

The construction of “Larry Crowne” is not highly original, and it’s hardly a classic in the making. A number of Ms. Tainot’s thoughts are allowed to be expressed out loud to no one in particular, lending an air of inconsistency to the film as her spoken stream of consciousness breaks the narrative. The presence of a scooter gang that employs snapping and reorganizing as methods of initiation demonstrates how scattered and random this film often feels. It should definitely appeal to those seeking a bit of light fun with these two beloved actors, but anyone looking for an actual great film should look elsewhere.


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