Review: Larry Crowne
Neither of them is quite at the apex of their career but Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are still two of the biggest stars in Hollywood; so why make a film that seems intent on proving that they are no big deal?
This tale, which Hanks directed and co-wrote, of a good hearted dork who gets fired from his menial shopfloor job in a chain store and goes off to college, where Roberts is a disillusioned, alcoholic professor consistently shows them in the worst possible light, not just in their appearance but in their limitations as performers.
It's almost as if the two of them had come up with this project as a way to mark the moment when they started their orderly withdrawal from the top table of stardom, a subliminal suggestion to fans that it is time to move on and let them be.
It is supposed to look at how the little guy is suffering in the new depression, but the film consistently fails to engage with harsh reality.
After Crowne loses his job you expect him to suffer and hit rock bottom but after a tough 10 minutes or so he ends up at a community college where instantly he falls in with kooky young student Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was once Martha Jones's sister on Doctor Who) who sees him as a perfect doer upper opportunity and along with her gang of scooter riders, very helpfully turns his life round for him. Such is Talia's ability to magic everything better I half expected her to be revealed as a genie at the end.
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Many people's objection to the film will be that it is soft headed and soppy but Hanks' niceness shouldn't be a stick to beat him with. The problem is that it is very badly made and written soft-headed soppiness. Mr and Mrs Hanks made a ton of money backing the surprise hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you must respect his loyalty to its writer/star Nia Vardalos even though it must be clear by now that it was a one time strike. The script she and Hanks have written for this is packed with excruciatingly bad lines and lame jokes.
Particularly toe curling is the ongoing gag of Talia's boyfriend worrying that there is something going on be- tween her and Crowne, despite a quarter century age gap. But then the idea of Hanks and Roberts getting together is hardly any more palatable. Sure Roberts' character is something of a crumbling beauty, but she is a lady of sophistication and learning and it is hard to see her falling for this noble dope.
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LARRY CROWNE (12A)
Director: Tom Hanks
With: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bryan Cranston, Cedric the Entertainer, George Takai
Length: 98 mins