CliqueClack Flicks

Larry Crowne doesn’t live up to the promise of its cast

Larry Crowne - Theater Review
Release Date: 07/01/2011 - MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clacker Rating: 3 Clacks

You'd think with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts on the same screen, it would be cinematic gold. Unfortunately 'Larry Crowne' is just OK.

It is a bit surprising, when you really think about it, that Larry Crowne represents only the second time that Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts have ever shared the screen together. Their first film, Charlie Wilson’s War, was a fun take on a political story, penned by my favorite writer around, Aaron Sorkin. After having seen their first time on screen together, I was interested to see these two take on a more traditional romantic comedy.

Larry Crowne was a solid effort, and a movie that I half enjoyed enjoyed. But with this cast, I expected a whole lot more. Hanks obviously has fun playing the titular Crowne, a recently “downsized” guy who is finding out the hard way that his twenty years of service in the Navy mean considerably less than a college degree would (I’ll put that particular tragedy aside). His experience is kind of what you’d expect if Rodney Dangerfield’s character in Back to School had chosen Community’s Greendale Community College instead of a bigger institution. His character’s ability to like, and be liked, by everyone must have been a blast to play.

I was not nearly as much of a fan of Roberts’ Mercedes “Mercy” Tainot, at least for the first two acts (other than that cool nickname … hypothetical future girlfriend take note … that’s going to be our daughter’s name). We weren’t designed to be, though, so I throw the blame for that on the writing, and not the acting. She grows infinitely more likeable when she finally kicks her deadbeat husband to the curb (more on that later), and much more so when she woke up out of the funk that had defined her character so completely.

The secondary cast, though, is where this movie shines. George Takei and Cedric the Entertainer took turns stealing scenes as an Economics Professor with an overinflated sense of self-importance, and Crowne’s garage sale capitalist neighbor, respectively. Most surprising, though, was Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Larry’s carefree scooter enthusiast friend and guide to all things cool. Maybe I was holding her accountable for the incredibly disappointing Undercovers, but she’s a breath of fresh air. Even Dale Dye, a friend of Hanks’ from the Band of Brother days, had a great, but quick, appearance as one of the managers that fired Crowne.

This was only Tom Hanks’ second time in the director’s chair, and he did a fairly good job. I liked that he wasn’t afraid to play around a little with the camera, and even appreciated playing with conventions a little, with the on-screen visuals for text messaging. Most of all, I appreciated that he did both sparingly.

It is Hanks as the director, though, that I think deserves the blame for Larry Crowne being “just OK” when it should have been so much better. The pacing was off, especially when transitioning in and out of the more dramatic moments. There didn’t seem to be rhyme or reason thematically as to when we hit those times that we were supposed to be laughing with the characters, or feeling sorry for them. As I alluded to earlier, Crowne spends entirely too much time with Roberts’ husband, played by Brian Cranston, before kicking him to the curb. I’m not sure his character is truly necessary in the story and unfortunately drags everything, especially Robert’s character, down.

Larry Crowne is by no means a bad film. The diverse characters alone make it a worthwhile watch. But it was a victim of its own casting. When you’ve got two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, the bar is set incredibly high. Crowne, unfortunately, just doesn’t get it done.

Photo Credit: Bruce Talamon; Vendome International, LLC

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