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Larry Crowne

A 2011 movie directed by Tom Hanks.

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Crowne Learns a Lot, but Hanks Has a Lot to Learn

  • Jul 2, 2011
Star Rating:

Larry Crowne is strained, unfocused, and pointless, which is both strange and appalling given the talent attached to it: Tom Hanks, who not only stars but was also the director, one of the producers, and the co-writer; Julia Roberts, who co-stars; Nia Vardalos, the other half of the screenwriting team. Between them, they have three Oscars and six Oscar nominations, and don’t even get me started on the Golden Globes. How could any of them have believed that this film was ready for theaters? Is it possible the story was this disappointing even in the screenwriting phase? Something must have gone wrong somewhere along the way. How else to explain actually including a joke in which a college slogan is, “Beaver fever – go catch it”? I can only hope that this is merely a lapse in judgment from which they will speedily recover.
Hanks plays Navy veteran Larry Crowne, who loses his job at a K-Mart-type store on the grounds that he never earned a college degree. Hoping to prevent this from happening again, he enrolls in a local community college. Three things happen to him during the course of the semester. First, he befriends an annoying free spirit named Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who likes making fashion statements and, like Larry, drives a scooter. She’s part of a scooter club, which is led by her jealous boyfriend, Dell (Wilmer Valderrama). She also has a habit of giving people names that better suit them (Larry becomes Lance), barging into other people’s homes, and overseeing unasked-for makeovers and unwanted rearranging of furniture. Apparently, she’s into feng shui. Who the hell does she think she is?

Second, he takes an economics class and does brilliantly in it. He does so well that it helps him in the process of foreclosing his house, which he can no longer afford to live in. The class is taught by a grating scholarly stereotype played by George Takei; he pushes his own textbook at every opportunity and sternly takes away cell phones from his students, most notably from Larry, who regularly has texting conversations with Talia. Only in this film would they get away with a line about how only dummies use smart phones.
Third, he takes a speech and communications class, which begins at 8:00 am and has only nine additional students. I took a similar class ten years ago, and I can say with complete confidence that it was nothing like this. If it had been, the teacher would have been reported almost immediately for lack of focus and compassion. It’s taught by Mercedes Tainot (Roberts), who hates her job because she doesn’t feel as if she’s making a difference. When she arrives in class, she passively writes the word “care” on the blackboard, which I believe the audience was supposed to find funny. She’s married to a professor turned writer turned blogger turned internet porn addict (Bryan Cranston), an absolute loser of a man. Although we see her drinking in only a few scenes, it’s obvious that she’s an alcoholic and in desperate need of help.
Over the course of the movie, she and Larry will fall in love. How it happens is not made apparent to the audience. If you’ve ever seen an average romantic comedy – and Lord knows I’ve seen plenty of them – you’ll know that there’s a process at work, a sense that their relationship, however implausible, is building itself up through a series of events. We don’t get anything like that in Larry Crowne. We don’t even get a basic understanding of why they were attracted to each other in the first place. They just suddenly ... fall in love. Are we just supposed to blindly accept their arbitrary romance? How can we when the film is all about making a fresh start in life, which by definition involves planning and actions?

Other characters seem to have been included for no reason other than ludicrous comedy relief. Consider Larry’s neighbors/friends, Lamar and B’Ella (Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson), who are always having a garage sale. Seriously; in every scene that they’re in, piles and piles of old, used junk clutter their front yard, and Lamar takes great pleasure in haggling with his customers as he puffs away on a pipe. Never mind the fact that there’s nothing in it to smoke. If he thinks it makes him look more dignified, he’s sadly mistaken. And then there’s Mercedes’ friend/colleague, Frances (Pam Grier), who appears in exactly three scenes and says little if anything necessary. Her only apparent purpose is to supply Mercedes with routine dialogue about how all women sooner or later will find themselves lonely and heartbroken.
When it was over, I began to wonder: Was the film about Larry’s romance with Mercedes, or was it about his affinity for economics? In either case, what have we learned from the experience? I’m well aware that some movies aren’t supposed to teach you anything, but you see, the ads for Larry Crowne used the word “timely” as a review blurb. If a movie is timely, I expect it to actually say a little something. What makes watching this movie even more of a disappointment is that, all throughout, it’s obvious that lurking somewhere within is a story that works. All the right ingredients are there: An unemployed man who goes back to school, a teacher who has lost faith in herself, a chance for them both to get back on track. Why Hanks and Vardalos couldn’t make something out of this, I have absolutely no idea.


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July 03, 2011
ouch. too bad this one has been getting less than stellar reviews and I think it says a lot when 4 reviewers here agree. Thanks for the warning, I do like Hanks and Roberts but I need them in a good film to really enjoy their portrayals. Nice review as always.
July 03, 2011
Yeah, this one was really disappointing. You're right -- Hanks and Roberts are great actors, but they need to be in a film worthy of their talent. I suggest you see them in Charlie Wilson's War, if you haven't already. 
More Larry Crowne reviews
review by . November 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    "Larry Crowne" is an unspectacular, bland romance. If one could sum it all up as simplistically as possible, that would be my first choice. A film like this - one that is neither good nor particularly bad - leaves no room for sudden enthusiasm. I watched the film, I tried to get involved in it, but the film doesn't pay off as well as it wants to and becomes the sort of film where you can almost tell when it isn't even trying. In this film's case, that's most …
review by . March 26, 2012
Claire Danes does an amazing job of portraying an amazing woman.    Temple Grandin does not see, think or feel things like the average person. Her photographic mind is wired to visualize life, gadgets and needed changes yet she isn't able to communicate this very well. The world would benefit from her skills but first she has to get through college, good old boys, and ignorant idiots so her ideas can make a difference.    The cinematography is designed to …
review by . July 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Hanks goes back to school, fails miserably.
LARRY CROWNE   Written by Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos   Directed by Tom Hanks   Starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Cedric the Entertainer       It’s nothing personal against Tom Hanks – I like the guy – but he would not be my first choice to write, direct and star in a feature about the difficulties one faces when one loses a thankless job in the middle of one’s life. Larry Crowne is uneducated, which employer, U-Mart, …
review by . June 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Larry Crowne
       By Joan Alperin-Schwartz      Once upon a time, a Hollywood actor named Tom decided to write a film about a middle aged average guy who loses his job, goes to college, makes some new friends, joins a motor scooter gang, gets a makeover, and has his house foreclosed on..      Oh...in case I forgot to mention...He meets an alcholic college Professor who looks very much like Julia Roberts. They of course fall in …
review by . January 18, 2012
Tom Hanks stars a Larry Crowne, a happy, friendly, hard worker at a Target-like store who gets laid off because he never went to college. He enrolls in a community college, makes friends with a lot of young students, and is lucky enough to have a speech teacher played by Julia Roberts.      Co-written and directed by Hanks, this movie falls flat. It’s good-natured and wholesome enough, but so innocuous and predictable that I fell asleep twice and rewatching it didn’t …
Quick Tip by . August 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Not as bad as what the other Lunch reviewers have claimed. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit despite the fact that it is a no-brainer. In addition, the lack of chemistry between Hanks & Robert is another downside. Other than that, considering the way the world is now and the scripting, it's really not too bad.       Some hilarious moments, some thought provoking actions and some touching scenes... well, that's all it takes ;-) For those who are not into movies, …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie



Director: Tom Hanks
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Release Date: 1 July 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos
Runtime: 99 min
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