Movie Review: Larry Crowne (2011)

Most scripts are divided into three acts: The setup, which introduces characters, plot-points, and locales; the confrontation, where both the antagonist and protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses are further examined — complicating the problem at hand — and finally; the resolution, which concludes the aforementioned conflicts. Larry Crowne, a love-story between an ex-Navy serviceman and his lethargic professor that’s co-written (alongside Nia Vardalos), directed, and headlined by Tom Hanks, is a one-act picture — it’s all cutesy build-up. Because, it seems, in the suburbia where the eponymous protagonist resides, there are no problems; it’s a place where the retail business is fun, motorcycle gangs coincide with scooter clubs, and all a man has to do to be successful is run a yearlong yard-sale.

Hanks plays the titular nice guy stuck in a difficult situation. Despite a less-than-luxurious job at a strip-mall and twenty years abroad, he loves his life. He’s won several awards for Employee of the Month and owns a wonderful house. But when U-Mart, formerly a big-box company, downsizes, Crowne is the first to go, for his lack of a college education. “In a way, you’re still Employee of the Month,” Jack Strang (Rob Riggle), one of the higher-ups, tells Larry, as he scarfs down a stale slice of pizza. Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer), one of Crowne’s neighbors who makes a living peddling used furniture, suggests community college and, for travel purposes, trades him a scooter in exchange for a flat-screen television (the height of the dramatic tension).

At school, he meets Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an environmentalist hipster who runs the college’s scooter club (which later formulates to clean up Crowne’s house, give him a new wardrobe, and a fresh haircut). But more importantly, he crosses paths with Miss Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), a professor frustrated with her teaching career (which is going nowhere), and marriage to a sleazy author (Brydon Cranston), who surfs porn when she’s out. And while she’s, at first, disgusted with his dedication to a class that none cares about, the forty-something year-old proves that too many bedtime martinis can be the beginning of a number of unexpected relationships. Cue the scene where Hanks and Roberts gratuitously make-out at Tainot’s doorstep.

Note to self: This isn’t the ’90s; films like Pretty Woman aren’t relevant anymore; Julia Roberts isn’t relevant anymore. Once America’s sweetheart, she’s now known as a home wrecker who treats fans and cast-members like garbage and has no respect for film sets. “A one trick pony,” many call her, scoffing at the fact that she demands top dollar for mediocre performances and recoiling every time she lets loose one of her obnoxious laughs. Understandably, she’s on the top of every man’s ‘most hated’ list. Larry Crowne is no different as the actress makes an already unbelievable pairing all the more so (it doesn’t help that Hanks has a distinct, Tarantino-esque foot fetish).

But it’s really the writing that lets the film down. Vardalos, since her critically-acclaimed debut, has fallen off the wagon, starring in garbage like Cougar Town and My Life in Ruins. The problem with the script is, ironically, the lack of a problem; there is no conflict that drives these characters — they drift around, spewing (somewhat) witty one-liners, without purpose. Crowne is too perfect to be a memorable lead and Hanks’ “do no wrong” shtick becomes increasingly tiresome. At least Cedric the Entertainer lends an idiosyncratic supporting act.

It was Hanks, who on the topic of Larry Crowne, once said that “movies are joyful enterprises.” That’s all fine and dandy, but the actor’s sophomore directorial debut takes it a step further and the result is bland and conventional — predictable from beginning to . . . uhm, end (which the film doesn’t really have). I’d, however, happily see a spinoff featuring Crowne’s self-absorbed Economics teacher, Dr. Matsutani (George Takei). But since that’s highly unlikely, I guess it’s time to make some calls to Universal Pictures.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
2 Star Rating: Bad


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'Movie Review: Larry Crowne (2011)' have 5 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 4, 2011 @ 3:19 pm Dave Bing

    Is it possible you let your dislike for Julia Roberts taint your opinion of the movie?

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 15, 2011 @ 8:03 pm Cerritos

    I saw this preview thinking, why is this a movie? A 40 something guy goes to college, likes driving a scooter, and falls for Julia Roberts (who I agree no one cares about anymore)Even her throwing her arms around in the classroom I was like wtf? I think this movie is trying too hard to be a cute and simple movie with lots of meaning. Nope, not gonna waste 2 of my hours watching this crap!

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 17, 2011 @ 7:38 pm Mariusz Zubrowski

    @ Dave


  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 17, 2011 @ 2:29 pm gman

    I think the more movies a person watches the more luxury one has to hate a movie. I watch enough to hate this movie, but I don’t watch any movies with language, violence, sex or horror, so I don’t have a lot of room to be picky. I love that Dean is getting arrested and Mercedes is laughing but Larry doesn’t know that he’s her husband. This movie is very long in its development of the romance but I love the way the long road meanders to get there. I was just as surprised as Larry when Mercedes asked him to kiss her. I suspect he’s not used to that and certainly not expecting it from her.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 22, 2011 @ 3:41 pm east coast

    didn’t like it either, tom’s acting didnt impress me and the movie would be better with another actor

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