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Movie Review: Larry Crowne



Films opening this weekend:
Buck - Eastern Hills Dipson
Larry Crowne - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade; McKinley Mall Dipson; Transit, Galleria, Elmwood, Hollywood Regals; Flix
Monte Carlo - Market Arcade; Transit, Galleria, Elmwood, Hollywood, Quaker Regals; Flix
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade; Transit, Galleria, Elmwood, Hollywood Regals; Flix; Transit Drive-In

I really like the poster. The sky blue with the alternating thick/thin sans serif font and the jarringly bright yellow, drawing your eye to it and down towards the pair of movie stars at bottom right. Julia Roberts looks ecstatic and Tom Hanks suavely cool on his scooter—this could be a gem of a film, I thought, with some sophisticated style.

Alas, it is not. After starting with the charming joke of a middle-aged man living and breathing his retail sales job, the film slowly devolves into tedium. As the titular Larry Crowne, Hanks is a bit of a goof, someone certainly left of center on the maturity level. He left his life as a twenty-year Navy "culinary specialist" behind for the mostly thankless task of cleaning puke, stocking shelves, and steering his customers to the best product for their needs.

But the joke cannot sustain after an awkward firing session only briefly alluded to in the trailer. In what’s the first of many scenes that drag on much longer than necessary, helped by the flatness of almost every single joke, I began to shift in my seat uncomfortably, not because this non-collegiate man who excels at his job is fired, but because the dialogue is so strained. The poster lied—he is, quite simply, a dork, and Roberts is soon shown to be anything but ecstatic with her life.



So Larry Crowne makes his way to school on the advice of next-door neighbor, Lamar (one of the few bright spots played endearingly by Cedric the Entertainer). An earlier Rob Riggle quip about Crowne’s growth being retarded comes to mind as we watch Hanks’ out-of-place grin and complete fish-out-of-water sensibility take to the campus. He’s like a giant child without a clue, defenseless to the kind, overly intrusive Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) taking a shine to his kindred scooter spirit. She becomes his educator on being hip, while the jaded Mercy Tainot (Roberts) and over-the-top Dr. M (George Takai) mold his mind in the ways of public speaking and economics, respectively.

Larry Crowne just screams for attention with forced eccentricity and amateurish attempts at artistic composition. I had high hopes, having  enjoyed Hanks’ first foray behind the lens with That Thing You Do!, but all its nostalgic charm is missed here, replaced by a schmaltzy, unfunny mess of a script. I’d hate to place all the blame on co-writer Nia Vardalos, but my similar inability to see the laughs in My Big Fat Greek Wedding do cause me to think her comedic sensibilities took over.

I found myself hating the leads for their utter stupidity. Maybe the project was meant to be a fantasy satire, a world turned on its head with tragedy begetting riches, I don’t know. Either way it comes off like a muddled mess of missed opportunities surrounding the adulterous, central romantic coupling.



Because despite all the talk about school and bettering oneself, this is a romantic comedy at its core … I think. But the will-they-or-won’t-they only adds more awkwardness. It’s really too bad, since the scenes inside Mrs. Tainot’s classroom do sort of work. Turn this flick into a broad comedy about an older man joining a freshman level communication course full of stereotypical kids and there’s a decently entertaining romp waiting to be let loose.

Larry Crowne 4/10 | ★ ½

photography:
[1] Academy Award® winners TOM HANKS and JULIA ROBERTS come together for a romantic comedy about how the hard knocks from today's recession inspire one everyday guy to undergo a personal reinvention and an unexpected second act in his life: "Larry Crowne". Photo Credit: Bruce Talamon Copyright: © 2011 Vendôme International, LLC
[2] (L to R) Larry (TOM HANKS) is busted by Dr. Matsutani (GEORGE TAKEI) in a romantic comedy about how the hard knocks from today's recession inspire one everyday guy to undergo a personal reinvention and an unexpected second act in his life: "Larry Crowne". Photo Credit: Bruce Talamon Copyright: © 2011 Vendôme International, LLC

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