Jul 5, 2011

A Few Thoughts on... "Larry Crowne"

Tom Hanks is such a likable guy. From Big and Forrest Gump through Toy Story 3, he's made a career out of being a versatile, likable guy while earning millions and clout for quality work.

This doesn't make his choice to make Larry Crowne a terrible decision, but the alienation between living in a mansion and an apartment can be seen in Hanks' writing and directing of this movie.

The story follows Larry Crowne, a six-time Employee of the Month at U-Mart, where he has worked hard after leaving a job as a cook for the Navy. One day, he is fired for not having a required amount of education needed to succeed up the corporate ladder.
Inspired by his recent firing, he decides to go to a community college to take Economics (teacher played by George Takai) and Speech (teacher played by Julia Roberts). There, he becomes friends with a gang of moped driving people that are at least 20 years his junior. He goes through classes learning what he needs to get his work back on track, while falling in love with the speech teacher, who just fell out of a sour relationship with a PG porn obsessed boyfriend (Bryan Cranston).

The movie goes through all of the typical set-ups of a romantic comedy, though the romance never feels established until the last minute. It can also be attributed to the fact that the movie has a standard premise, but puts very few hurdles in the way to make us think of Hanks having any problem with anything. He conveniently gets a job as a cook real quick, he makes friends real quick (and never once having any feud with Wilmer Valderama over an insinuated relationship with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who has come to assign Hanks pet names).
In fact, what little conflict there was (notably between Cranston and Roberts) seems forced and used as nothing more than to establish why Roberts character was cranky. Cranston's dialog seems to only be used as bogus exposition ("I'm a man, I like porn") and then is conveniently dropped from the movie, never attempting to win Roberts back.
This is a movie where everything seems to be hunky dory and the real twist is not missing a final that without, he still would have passed. The real problems lie in the characters, who seem to be nothing more than made for one trait, usually as a harmless, cute, awkward gag that you've probably seen before. Valderama simply yawns his way through the movie, making for lamest boyfriend in this movie.

While this movie manages to avoid being over the top in cliches, it manages to tread in a world of mediocrity. It's not to say there wasn't potential here, but when so much of the plot contradicts itself, there is no real substance to enjoy in this movie. I felt that if Hanks was more involved and interested in writing the script, this could've been something. It could've been a community college version of the great Up in the Air, where the economic troubles of the 20-year-olds could've been the arc, and together they solve their problems, with help from Takai, who managed to be hilarious with what little breathing room the script gave.

In closing, I don't find the script that convincing or interesting. I felt that it was noble of Hanks to attempt to make a movie to connect with his audience, but it doesn't help when there's no conflict, notably the implied economic crisis. At most, this is a forgettable movie that doesn't aim high and achieves just that. It seems more like a movie Hanks made to kill time between projects, especially with the rushed feeling of dialog and characters.
Of course, it's the most sad to realize this is written and directed by Hanks, so it's hard to not help but wonder if maybe he's lost it a little (in a inoffensive, mediocre way).

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