Larry Crowne

As an avid fan of film, my love goes way back.  No, not just to awesome fare like The Goonies or Ghostbusters.  I mean way back.  Way way back.  Although I don’t often get a chance to talk about it here on the Fandom Menace, I have a love of the stars of old.  There is something so refreshing about a young everyman named Jimmy Stewart blustering through scenes, leaking charm all over the black and white 35 mm.  But in a world where all movie stars are expected to have unlimited sex appeal and a dark side, the idea of a humble and bumbling charmer has gone out the window and replaced with the likes of Channing Tatum.  But one man still stands as the symbol for all that made those old movies great and his name is Tom Hanks.

In a summer filled with fighting cars, norse gods and pilots who can bring their will into reality, Larry Crowne comes riding up on his little scooter to offer a little down home charm.  There aren’t explosions or sexy romances in far away lands.  There aren’t special effects or hundred million dollar budgets.  Instead, there is a nice old fashioned star vehicle that just wants to give you an enjoyable Sunday afternoon away from all the noise and confusion.

Tom Hanks plays Larry Crowne, a man in his fifties who is downsized at his current job at a Walmart-type store because he opted to join the Navy out of high school instead of attend college.  Out of work, recently divorced and in need of something to occupy the decade and a half before retirement, Larry decides to return to college where he meets an array of interesting new people.  Among them is a teacher, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who Larry soon finds himself sweetly thinking of outside of class and a young fellow scooter enthusiast named Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).  Over the course of the film, we see Talia’s fresh take on things reinvigorate Larry’s enthusiasm for life which, in turn, helps Mercedes come out of the darkness she buried herself in to avoid the hurt of her failing marriage and dwindling class sizes.

Sound simple?  Thats because it is.  This isn’t a movie trying to accomplish anything really.  It isn’t gunning for awards, praise or a three-hundred million dollar take at the box office.  The film, much like Larry just wants to be nice.  And where that is concerned, it succeeds.  Without judgement or cynicism, Larry Crown walks right up and shakes your hand with a smile and a hello and it’s a little strange because he means it.  As a modern movie-goer, I found it a little hard at first to accept the sincerity of the movie at face value.  Like a bad one night stand, a lot of filmmakers have learned how to trick you into believing a movie will be one thing and then, by the time you are emotionally invested, turn it into a monster.  But Larry Crowne isn’t that movie.

It is a little goofy and a little awkward and although it doesn’t know you or have friends like you, its always wondered what insights on life someone like you might have to share with someone like it which is a refreshing change of pace.  Sure, its a little clunky and cutesy and a little too old fashioned for its own good sometimes, but its simple enthusiasm and sweet nature keeps you in.  It’s no surprise though.  Not only does Hanks star in the movie, but he also co-write the screenplay with Nia Vardolos and directed.  What does that mean?  Well, if Tom Hanks’ public persona was a movie, this is it.

Beyond Hanks and Roberts, the film is peppered with a supporting cast made up of seasoned vets.  Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson play Larry’s neighbors who run a 365 day a year garage sale on their lawn and deal in both knick knacks and sound advice.  Bryan Cranston plays Robert’s porn addicted writer husband.  Wilmer Valderrama is Talia’s gruff looking boyfriend.  George Takei is an overconfident economics professor.  Even Hank’s real life wife, Rita Wilson, and Vardolos’s real life husband, Ian Gomez, show up to the party.  All of the cast performs admirably despite the lack of conflict in the script, but I think special credit needs to go to Rami Malek who plays young classmate Steve Dibiasi.  It would be very easy for the dumb kid in class to become the butt of many jokes, but between the sunny niceness of the script and Malek’s outstanding comedic timing, not only do you not see Dibiasi as a joke, but actually come to really like him.

Is Larry Crowne a movie that will set the world on fire?  Most definitely not.  But it is a refreshing pallet cleanser in the middle of a summer overburdened with struggles for the fate of our world.  Its sherbet between courses.  That is all it is trying to be and, lets face it, sometimes that is exactly what we need.

RATING:  7/10

~ by Andrew Craig on July 12, 2011.

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