- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ith so many movies these days focusing on the negative effect that the economic recession has had on the average American, it’s refreshing to see a film like “Larry Crowne” that’s so infectiously optimistic about the future. Though tiptoeing around the seriousness of the situation may not be very realistic, Tom Hanks (directing for the first time since 1996’s “That Thing You Do!”) has chosen to make a film that places entertainment above politics, and there’s nothing wrong with that. “Larry Crowne” might seem a bit too light and cheerful for its own good, but it’s a pleasant slice of summer counter-programming that will delight adult moviegoers who complain that Hollywood doesn't make films for them anymore.
Larry Crowne (Hanks) has just lost his job. After years of service at a big-box retail store, he’s downsized due to a lack of a college degree, which his bosses claim has prevented him from advancing any further within the company. With a mortgage hanging over his head and no hope of finding a comparable job, Larry decides to go back to school by enrolling at the local community college. After trading in his gas-guzzling SUV for a more economical scooter, Larry is invited into a scooter gang by fellow classmate Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who takes him under her wing and gives him a complete makeover, much to the dislike of her jealous boyfriend (Wilmer Valderrama). Meanwhile, Larry develops a crush on his public speaking professor, Mercy Tainot (Julia Roberts), a misanthropic lush whose lost her passion for teaching because she thinks her students don’t care.
A lot of attention has been placed on the fact that “Larry Crowne” stars two of the biggest actors in Hollywood (and if the movie bombs, you can bet that there will be several articles written about their diminishing box office star power), but this is very much an ensemble effort. Though Hanks carries the movie on his nice guy charm, and Roberts makes an otherwise unlikeable character somewhat amiable, the best part of the film is the supporting cast. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, in particular, stands out as the energetic free spirit (and you’ll fall in love with her almost as quickly as Larry does), while George Takei shows off his comedic chops as Larry’s quirky Economics professor. Heck, even Wilmer Valderrama, whose career has pretty much stalled since the end of “That 70’s Show,” turns in a really funny performance comprised almost entirely of reaction shots.
It’s been awhile since Hanks last directed a film, but he does a great job of keeping the story moving at a nice pace, and he injects the same positive attitude that Larry has on life into the movie as a whole. There’s hardly a single negative thought in the film apart from Roberts’ character (whose crumbling marriage to her jerk husband, played by Bryan Cranston, is still pretty harmless compared to real life), and that’s necessary in order for the romantic elements of the story to work. Mercy needs Larry to remind her why starting a new life can be exciting instead of depressing, and although that incessant sweetness will undoubtedly rub some people the wrong way, it’s all part of the feel-good nature of the movie. “Larry Crowne” might seem more like fantasy than the new “Transformers” film as a result, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
“Larry Crowne” may not have done as well as Universal was expecting at the box office, but the studio hasn’t completely given up on the movie just yet. Though the bonus features are sparse, fans will still find a trio of extras to enjoy, including a short making-of featurette, some deleted scenes, and footage of the cast and crew goofing off on set.