Larry Crowne is as lightweight, innocent, and conflict-free of a romantic comedy as you’ll ever find. It’s charming, but very leisurely paced and underwritten given the gravity of the situation that the main character finds himself in. Fortunately, veteran actors Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts elevate the material with likeable, down-to-Earth performances and there is a wholesome, even naïve (by today’s standards) outlook at work that really comes off as refreshing.
Larry Crowne (Hanks) has just been fired from his retail job. He spent twenty years in the Navy after high school and has no higher education to put on a resume. He decides to enroll in a local community college to reinvent himself. There he meets a wide-ranging group of people, whom he befriends and spends time riding around town with on a scooter. One of his professors, Mercedes Tainot (Roberts), piques his interest and he begins pursuing her.
If it sounds simple, it is. Written by Hanks and Nia Vardalos (of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame), this is a film more about interactions than events. Larry goes to class, interacts with his friends, and goes home with new knowledge. It works on a crowd-pleasing level, but there is a missed opportunity to really explore what unemployment for a man Larry’s age would be in a 9+% unemployment world. Perhaps Hanks and Vardalos wanted to keep things light and cheery, which they do, but Larry never really has any obstacles once he gets to school and the romance with Mercedes is a fairly easy one.
Hanks, directing for the first time since 1996’s That Thing You Do!, spruces up an otherwise standard issue-looking picture with some vehicle tracking shots. His real accomplishment is keeping the performances grounded. Julia Roberts is a delight as Mercedes. She’s fed up with her marriage and looking for someone just the opposite of her porn-watching, neglectful husband. Her chemistry with Hanks is solid. Also immensely likeable is Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Talia, a younger student at the college who brings out Larry’s care-free side.
Larry Crowne is the perfect film to skip theatrically and rent on a rainy Fall evening. It’s a very good date film, especially for those who miss the more innocent messages of films ten or twenty years ago. It’s refreshing to see a movie in this genre populated by characters who aren’t self-centered crybabies looking for the easy way out. It’s a film that makes you smile more than laugh, and I think we could all use a few more smiles these days.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 99 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content.
Theatrical Release: July 1, 2011
Directed by: Tom Hanks
Written by: Tom Hanks & Nia Vardalos.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Cedric the Entertainer