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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Larry Crowne

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3_Chicks_Small Judy Thorburn

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 Larry Crowne

Hollywood's Golden Boy, Tom Hanks reunites with America's sweetheart, Julia Roberts (he co-starred with her in Charlie Wilson's War), for the summer romantic comedy Larry Crowne. Hanks produced, directed and co-wrote the script (with Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame) and has cast himself as the title character, a likable guy (not unlike his offscreen persona) who, in the opening of the story, is hit with bad news that millions of Americans can relate to. That's not the case with the unfolding series of events that are far from realistic. Larry Crowne is a feel good movie that doesn't reflect the true life drama that comes from being unemployed. The key words are romantic comedy and so it is essentially about two people who find each other while undergoing some major flack in their lives. As such, the plot moves on in a positive, upbeat note, leading up to the inevitable, predictable ending. The question is whether audiences will be entertained along the way.

The story takes off with mild mannered, all around good guy, Larry Crowne (Hanks) being fired from his job at a Walmart-like U Mart department store after his superiors tell him he lacks the educational background (since when was that a requirement?) and has no chance of ever being promoted. After the shock subsides, Crowne who is divorced and upside down on his mortgage, decides to go back to college so that he will never be fired again. The result is a life changing experience he never saw coming.

To save money on the high cost of gasoline, he buys a scooter from his advice giving, but shrewd, neighbor Lamar (Cedric The Entertainer) who spends his days holding a permanent yard sale (isn't that illegal?) on his front lawn.

At college Crowne enrolls in a class titled “The Art of Informal Remarks”, better known as public speaking, taught by Mercedes Tainot (Roberts) a bitter woman that has lost her passion for teaching and shows up for her class with a nasty attitude. That is because she has her own personal issues. Married to a former professor turned stay at home blogger (Bryan Cranston) whom she has caught surfing the internet for porn, doesn't sit well with her, his hard working wife. In an angry, frustrated rut Mercy (her nickname) chooses to drown her misery with frozen daiquiris.

Back at school, Larry has also signed up for an economics course taught by professor, Dr. Matsutani (George Takei, Sulu from the iconic TV series Star Trek) where he is befriended by a pretty, free spirited fellow classmate, Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who invites him to join her “gang” of scooter enthusiasts. Larry winds up as somewhat of a pet project for Talia who renames Larry, “Lance Corona”, gives him a wardrobe makeover and haircut and rearranges the furniture in his home, as her Latino boyfriend (Wilmer Valderrama) stands on the sidelines jealous of all the attention his girl is giving her much older, male friend. Larry and Talia's relationship is strictly platonic, but we all know there is no way this pretty young woman would latch onto the more “square” older man that she has nothing in common with. It just wouldn't happen. Besides, it is just a matter of time and the right set of circumstances to come into play for Larry and Mercy to connect on a romantic level.

The supporting cast of characters includes family and friends of scriptwriters, Hanks and Vardalos. Hank's wife, a newly blonde(it doesn't suit her) Rita Wilson, is on board as an annoyingly cheerful bank employee, and Ian Gomez, Vardalo's hubby, has a small role as Frank, the owner of the diner where Larry, a former Navy cook, snags a job to make ends meet. Also, if that blonde classmate in Hanks class looks remarkably like a young Meryl Streep, that is because she, Grace Gummer, is Streep's daughter. Taraji P. Henson, who richly deserved her supporting actress Oscar nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is wasted in a throw away role as neighbor Lamar's wife.

Implausible as plot elements are and the lack of build up to the characters' mutual attraction, what makes this film watchable are the likeability of its stars.

The film has some funny and cutesy moments. Though nothing to rave about, it is a pleasant, vulgarity free diversion from the sizzling summer heat. And while Larry Crowne doesn't rank at the top of its class, it deserves a passing grade.


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