Review: LARRY CROWNE (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 15 July 2011

Review: LARRY CROWNE (2011)


When was the last time you saw Tom Hanks in a feel-good, upbeat nature? As far as I recalled, that was way back in 2004 when he did THE TERMINAL, a heartwarming dramedy directed by Steven Spielberg. And frankly, that was also the last time I admired Tom Hanks' live-action acting performance. Not even his two high-profile projects in Ron Howard's THE DA VINCI CODE (2006) and ANGELS & DEMONS (2009), aren't much of a lasting impression. When he announced his next movie project called LARRY CROWNE, I was anticipating his long-awaited comeback to the familiar good-natured role he always popularly known for in the past. What's more, LARRY CROWNE seems to be a perfect antidote to a summer filled with R-rated raunchy comedies. Unfortunately, I was shocked to discover his latest movie is very disappointing. So what went wrong? More on that later.

As for the plot, the movie centers on the titular character named Larry Crowne (Hanks) who is shocked to discover that he loses his job after a corporate downsizing at U-Mart. Apparently he is told that he's lacking of college degree for him to advance his career further. Since he is now in his fifties, he is facing with the prospect of landing a decent job. However, thanks to his kind neighbors Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer) and B'Ella (Taraji P. Henson), he trades in his gas-guzzling truck for a second-hand motor scooter and enrolls in a speech course at East Valley Community College where he is taught by the uptight Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts). He quickly make plenty of friends, particularly his lovely classmate Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a scooter-riding, free-spirited girl who gives Larry an extreme makeover -- both personal grooming and interior design for his otherwise bland-looking house -- despite the jealousy of her boyfriend, Dell (Wilmer Valderamma). In the meantime, Tainot often drinks her sorrow away due to her loveless marriage with her slacker husband (Bryan Cranston) and her seemingly stalled career. Talia, of course, subsequently tries to play matchmaker between Larry and Tainot.

LARRY CROWNE marked second directing effort for Tom Hanks, who previously debuted both on and off-camera with the feel-good musical drama THAT THING YOU DO! (1996). On the surface, Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos's screenplay which touches on the issue of improving one's life at the age of 50s, is actually inspiring. Unfortunately, the execution is surprisingly bland and lack of certain edge to make the movie a heartfelt experience. While it is understandable that the movie is aiming as a feel-good dramedy, does Tom Hanks have to sugarcoat everything so sickly sweet? What we get here instead is a lackluster movie suffered from sitcom-level cheap laughs. You can even say just about everything about this movie leaves a sour aftertaste.

While the plot is a total letdown, the characters are similarly disappointing as they are nothing more than one-note comic stereotypes. At first it's good to see Tom Hanks is back in his upbeat mood after years of playing serious roles (at least in live-action movies) but one must stressed out that playing an everyman image without a touch of realism is just terribly awkward. I mean, he is already in his fifties, for god's sake! His co-star, Julia Roberts fails to ignite much in her character who spends all the time looking bitter without given much thought we can at least sympathize for her. Even when she finally flashes her trademark megawatt smile, it hardly matters anyway. The rest of the supporting actors are as bland and ultimately forgettable. Both capable talents like Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji B. Henson and Bryan Cranston are simply wasted. Only Gugu Mbatha-Raw shines a bit with her sunshine performance as the free-spirited Talia.

So much for the anticipation.

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