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Director: Tom Hanks
Writers: Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos
Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Sarah Mahoney, Roxana Ortega, Cedric "The Entertainer", Randall Park, Rob Riggle, Pam Grier, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Rami Malek, Malcolm Barrett, Grace Gummer, Maria Canals-Barrera, Julia Cho, Chad W. Smathers, David L. Murphy, George Takei, Bryan Cranston, Carly Reeves, Ian Gomez, Nia Vardalos, Chet Hanks, Holmes Osborne, Wilmer Valderrama, Rita Wilson, Taraji P. Henson
Synopsis: Until he was downsized, affable, amiable Larry Crowne (Hanks) was a superstar team leader at the big-box company where he's worked since his time in the Navy. Underwater on his mortgage and unclear on what to do with his suddenly free days, Larry heads to his local college to start over. There he becomes part of a colorful community of outcasts, also-rans and the overlooked all trying to find a better future for themselves...often moving around town in a herd of scooters. In his public-speaking class, Larry develops an unexpected crush on his teacher Mercedes Tainot (Roberts), who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her husband. The simple guy who has every reason to think his life has stalled will come to learn an unexpected lesson: when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might discover your reason to live.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content
The Story of a man that reinvents himself...
Tom Hanks returns to direct his first theatrical film since "That Thing You Do!" Is it a successful return you might ask? Well, let's go over that now. Although I wouldn't say this is Tom Hanks' best film between the two that he's directed, and it certainly doesn't feature his best acting performance either. However, for what it is, "Larry Crowne" is a fairly enjoyable film that I'm sure most audiences will fall in love with, as it's basically a feel good story about a man reinventing himself after losing his job.
Tom Hanks plays a big box store manager named Larry Crowne, who happens to be one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Not only is he always upbeat about everything, but he's one of those rare movie characters that you wish you could just hang out with all the time. Larry has been with the company since retiring from the Navy, and he's one of the companies most reliable employees; having won eight "employee of the month" awards in a row. Unfortunately like all companies in this weary economy, Larry finds his position downsized because he never went to college. Unemployed with a mortgage to a house that he can't possibly afford without his job, what is Larry supposed to do now?
Well to make a long story short, Larry decides to go back to school to finish his degree. Although his major is never made clear in the film, he's shown taking two classes throughout the movie. One being in accounting, and the other in speech. I'm sure a lot of "Star Trek" fans might recognize George Takei in the film, as he plays Larry's accounting teacher, Dr. Matsutani. His other teacher is played by Julia Roberts (Mercedes Tainot), as some can tell by the trailers. By the way, he ends up having an affair with one of them too, and it should be obvious that it's NOT George Takei. Although, Dr. Matsutani did have a few playful banter scenes with Larry; regarding the issue of cell phones in class. Hmm...I wonder what that could be about...
Anyways, Mercedes is a teacher that's tragically depressed with her life, as she's stuck in a failing marriage, and genuinely questions whether or not her teachings even matter to her students. I guess one could say that she's a bit of a pessimist when we first meet her in this movie; which would make her a complete polar opposite to Larry, who happens to be the ultimate optimist throughout the film. At first, she finds herself rather annoyed by Larry's eternal optimism, but she soon starts to develop a soft spot for him, as it seems you just can't help but like the guy.
Even when Larry loses his job, and his bosses are acting like a**holes to him, the guy never loses his cool. Not even a little bit. In fact, one of his bosses boasts to Larry about his degree, and tries to talk down to the poor guy when they had to give him the bad news. But guess what happened? He got laid off too, and forced to work as a pizza delivery boy later in the movie. Does Larry take advantage of the situation, and gloat to his face? No. If anything, he tips him even though he's barely making it himself. Seriously, you can't bring yourself to ever hate Larry, as he's just an all around nice guy. Hell, even some of the supporting characters that become friends with Larry are likable.
Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) for instance, not only introduces Larry to the concept of "Fung Shui", but she also recruits Larry into her biker moped gang too. During the film, they become such good friends, and you can tell they had a lot of onscreen chemistry with each other. In fact, a part of me wishes the love story part of this film would've been between Talia and Larry, as the subplot revolving around their friendship feels very natural, and believable on so many levels. Sure, Talia's boyfriend doesn't exactly care for the way she flirts with Larry, but it's done in such a harmless "tongue and cheek" fashion that you can't help but laugh about it anyway. Plus, I loved how Cedric "The Entertainer" played Larry's wise guy best friend in the movie, as he plays the perfect realist to balance out Larry's optimism and Mercedes' negativity for audiences. Unfortunately, this film isn't without it's flaws though.
The love story in "Larry Crowne" doesn't become implemented until around the last thirty minutes of the movie. Seriously, if you've never watched the trailer, then you would have no clue that Mercedes had any type of romantic interest in Larry until around the later half of the movie. Which needless to say, it's rather sad because by the time they do introduce the concept of them falling for each other, it feels rushed and often forced between their characters. Another reason why I felt a love story between Larry and Talia would've been the way to go in this movie, as the chemistry between their characters was already there throughout most of the film.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the love story that "Larry Crowne" did have was completely unbelievable, as Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks certainly do their best to make up for an obviously rushed script. I just felt that the love story should've been introduced a lot sooner into the movie, to establish more of a stronger connection for the audience; versus waiting until the last thirty minutes when everything just sort of feels rushed.
As far as how well Tom Hanks does a director, he seems to have an upbeat style similar to that of Ron Howard. Sure, he won't give you anything that's deep like a Christopher Nolan, or a Martin Scorsese. And, he certainly won't give you something that'll impress you visually like a James Cameron or a Michael Bay type director. However, he will give you plenty of uplifting stories that'll touch the heart of the audience, with a typical feel good type theme about the human spirit. Take it for what it's worth, but that seems to be Tom Hanks' style when it comes to directing.
Overall, I wouldn't say this is a great film, as it obviously could have been a lot better developing Mercedes' relationship with Larry. However, it doesn't ruin the movie to where most audiences won't like it anyway. In the end, if you're just looking for another feel good movie to pass the time, then "Larry Crowne" is definitely worth a rental on DVD/Blue Ray when it comes out. However, if you're expecting this movie to be along the lines of Hanks' other movies like "Philadelphia", "League of their Own" or "Forrest Gump", then you'll be sorely disappointed. Definitely worth a three out of four in my book.