Larry Crowne Directed by: Tom Hanks Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Bryan Cranston, Pam Grier Running Time: 1 hr 39 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 1, 2011
PLOT: After being downsized from his beloved retail job for not having a degree, the easygoing Larry Crowne (Hanks) enlists in some community college classes.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Larry Crowne is for mature audiences - meaning, those who don't demand massive explosions or sex scenes to be entertained. Teens can enjoy it just as much as adults, it just depends on an individual's sense of humor.
An arthouse plot with straight comedy yuk-yuks, Larry Crowne is a movie in which people simply exist. It is a true slice of life that captures its characters in the middle of transitional phases, without putting them in situations that are wholly life altering. They’ll have stories even more worthy of a script after Larry Crowne concludes, just as they have before we met them.
The story hardly has any bump to its arc; it’s a fairly straightforward line. The “romance” isn’t a major part, and there’s also no scene where Larry’s ever in jeopardy of failing a class. This is Hanks’ second directed film, (That Thing You Do! was before), and Crowne is a smooth cruise.
This script chooses characters over conflict. The only investment required for Larry Crowne is that we hook onto its characters. Tom Hanks is a particularly easy catch for the audience because he’s bringing back vintage Hanks, playing Larry as if the he didn’t mind having his acting style connected with Jimmy Stewart’s. Crowne is a simple middle-aged guy in real circumstances, but with a positive attitude that’s contagious however the amount of SPF the audience might feel is required. With the exception of a couple physical gags (crashing a scooter, bursting into class), his humor is played gently. Even when Crowne starts wearing a wallet chain, a true mark of being a kid, it is never given a direct focus – as the whippersnappers might say, it’s never lame. This isn’t like when you caught your dad listening to your Nirvana tapes. It’s much cooler than that.
Crowne’s second attribute is its humor, which can be hit-or-miss. With the script co-written by the awfully unfunny Nia Vardalos, sometimes the movie lets its gags rip, throws them at the audience with little context, and hopes they stick. The movie even takes place a lot in a speech class, which is an easy way for the film to set itself up for gags, which can be funny, at times. It’s best moment of dialogue might be Larry’s final speech – it’s the most clever third act speech that I’ve seen in a while.
Without dropping the audience out of its soft grip, Larry Crowne has an awareness to real issues, which makes its “slice of life” aspect all the more appetizing. “Times are tough,” as said a couple times in the film, but this doesn't mean our lives are over.
Opening the same weekend as a big and loud movie starring giant toys that fight each other, Larry Crowne isn’t just a getaway from our own real problems, but from movies that become overcomplicated and insincere. It’s breezy like an easygoing scooter ride – it doesn’t need a sense of danger to offer some fun.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10