At the Movies: Larry Crowne

It’s hard to speak ill of Tom Hanks.

He comes across as such a nice guy. And he’s so funny. And adorable. Did you see him on “The Late Show?” He and Dave were hilarious. Did you see him on “The Daily Show?” He’s always so positive and clever. I’d gladly pay money to watch two hours of Tom Hanks doing the press junket rounds.

It would certainly be more entertaining than “Larry Crowne.” As director, star and co-writer of the script, Hanks has to take the fall for this lackluster romantic comedy.

Hanks stars as the title character, a former Navy cook who now works as a low-level manager at U-Mart. One day he’s called into the office where he thinks he’s going to be named Employee of the Month. Instead, he’s handed his walking papers. Larry doesn’t have a college education, you see, which means he’s gone as far as he can go with the U-Mart company.

Here’s the film’s first misfire. There’s nothing funny about losing your job. Trust me. Playing the scene in a semi-comic manner is in bad taste, especially with things the way they are today.

Larry goes to his home that he can no longer afford and starts hauling his belongings out to the curb to sell them. This annoys his neighbor Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer), whose home is in perpetual garage-sale mode.

To improve his station, Larry enrolls in two classes at the local college: an economics class taught by cell-phone hating Dr. Matsutani (George Takei) and a public speaking course taught by perpetually depressed Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts).

Mrs. Tainot hates her job, hates her life, hopes that not enough students show up to have class, and hates her husband Dean (Bryan Cranston). She comes home every night, fixes a drink and proceeds to complain about Dean’s interest in Internet porn and then ignores him. Granted, he’s a lazy bum but she’s clearly no prize to live with.

And that’s the film second — and major — misfire. Mercedes is in no way a sympathetic character. She’s angry and bitter and unpleasant. They try to rehabilitate her halfway through the film — because someone remembers it’s a romantic comedy and she needs to hookup with Larry — but it’s too little, too late. Larry and Mercedes come together in a fashion that is forced and unconvincing.

What’s good about the film are the scenes with Larry dealing with school and everyone but Mrs. Tainot. Takei almost steals the show and Cedric also has some funny moments. Hanks is charming as ever and you certainly want to see things work out for Larry.

But I hear there’s already a decent sitcom about community college currently airing on television so I recommend you check that out before spending any money on this conventional and uninspired film.

Did it work for me? I suppose if you want to escape the special effects extravaganzas, cartoons and crude comedies that fill the multiplexes this time of year — and you don’t have terribly high standards — “Larry Crowne” fills a void. But it didn’t really work for me.

I’m sorry, Tom. Please don’t hate me. I still think you’re great.

One response to “At the Movies: Larry Crowne

  1. I’ve sworn off Tom Hanks.

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