Movie Review: Larry Crowne
I don’t want to claim I have psychic powers of any kind. I’m not even sure if I believe in that sort of thing, and if I did I am sure I would enjoy spending time in Vegas a lot more than I do. The fact is, however, I sometimes get premonitions, which I actually like to attribute to my subconscious mind having a better understanding of my mental processes, schedule, and world circumstances than I could ever hope to. The fact is, when I saw the trailer for Larry Crowne, deep inside of me I something said “Yep, you are going to see that movie” in spite of the fact that I have no interest in this type pf sappy feel good dross.
Now, I don’t know if it is fair to say I had no interest in anything associated with this film. The fact is I think Tom Hanks is one of the most powerful actors around today. His performances in movies like Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Philadelphia, and Castaway are some of the most amazing movie experiences you could hope to see. Furthermore, Julia Roberts, in addition to being an amazing actress in her own right, is someone who turns me on like a massive Viagra overdose. Her face, her hair, and my perception of her personality based on seeing her in many films really lights my fuse (happy 4th of July, by the way). However, I just don’t normally go for films that don’t involve action, explosions, or human struggle against true adversity (I’d like to say struggle against adversity, but except for The Dark Crystal I can’t think of a good film that doesn’t actually involve humans in some way. I guess we are somewhat specist. Dark Crystal image courtesy of the movie t shirt category).
However, yesterday was my mothers birthday, and like the dutiful son I occasionally claim to be I drove down to LA and took her out for dinner and a movie. This was the only movie I thought remotely acceptable to her that wouldn’t make me vomit or doze off. Like I said, I enjoy Tom Hanks and can watch Julia Roberts on screen all day. I think the best way to describe this movie is with the word “satisfying”. It is not a great movie. It is not ground breaking. It doesn’t have amazing performances (that’s not to imply it has any bad performances, either). There are no amazing story revelations, and you will not really feel you have learned anything or that your life has in any ways improved for having seen it. You will, however, walk away feeling satisfied that there is some justice, poetry, and beauty in the world.
So, Larry Crowne, or, as I keep wanting to say it, The Thomas Crowne Affair, the movie that introduced me to the concept of hot MILF nudity. Tom Hanks more or less blends every character he has ever done in every movie into Larry Crowne, an ex navy cook who works at a retail store that is most definitely not Walmart in spite of being similar in almost every way. The only two exceptions are that it is called UMart and Larry and the rest of his fellow employees seem happy to be working there, unlike every Walmart employee in the history of the world. Larry gets laid off for the unlikely reason of not having any college education and, after a series of long dealing-with-unemployment-and-looking-for-a-job scenes decides what he needs is to gain some education and heads to the nearest community college. There he meets a crazy seeming man who turns out to be the dean of students who recommend he takes some kind of speech class, taught by super hot TILF Julia Roberts. He also takes an economics class taught by the most pleasant surprise of the movie for me, the great George Takai. George more or less steals the show in every scene he is in, and I loved him as the stuffy professor. Larry also bought a scooter from his neighbor, who runs a 24/7 garage sale of some kind. Thanks to the scooter he meets super duper cute scooter girl Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a girl with a weird name I have never seen before but hope to see again), who takes an unnatural interest in Larry that would be creepy and stalker-ish if it were a guy working on a girl. She and her (kind of annoying) West Side Story scooter gang take him riding, cut his hair, make him change his clothes, and completely rearrange his house until he is as cool as a 55 year old guy hanging out with college kids can be. His character does a full arc, learning in his econ class the value of defaulting on his home, changing his entire life, and eventually getting a job as a cook at his buddies diner. Meanwhile, Julia Roberts is going through her own arc as she kicks out her husband (played by Bryan Cranston, the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) for spending all day claiming to be a blogger but instead looking at online porn (wait a minute…). She kind of self destructs for a while. Anyway, community college hijinks ensues. Julia hates her students but comes to love them. Awkwardly cute romance blossoms. Talia drops out of college. Her lame over-the-top scooter boyfriend fails to get his comeuppance. George Takai is endlessly entertaining.
First the stars. Tom Hanks. One star. Julia Roberts. One star. George Takai. One star. A bunch of other guys you will recognize and enjoy. One star. The community college kids were all freakishly accurate and well cast, according to my mother who was a community college professor for 30 years. One star. Talia was super cute. One star. Dialog was smart, clever, and well delivered. One star. The pacing was excellent, especially given the evolutionary story arc Larry Crowne went through. One star. Overall satisfying movie that literally made me feel good. One star. And finally, on more bonus star for George Takai. Total: ten stars.
Now the black holes. About half the secondary characters bordered on the annoying, including the garage sale neighbor. One black hole. The whole Talia taking a massive interest in Larry sub plot felt really forced and fake. I shouldn’t have to suspend my disbelief in a movie that doesn’t involve super powers. Also, why does she collect cool men’s clothing in Tom’s exact size and want to give them to him? One black hole. Talia boyfriend as the tough, muscled, scooter guy felt really fake too. I have known any number of scooter guys and they are, to a man (for lack of a better term), wimpy hipsters with all the muscle tone of wet spaghetti. Real tough guys buy motorcycles. One black hole. The movie hit about an 8.5 on the Sap-o-meter. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
In the irksome-but-not-black-hole-worthy category, I have a few. First of all there were a couple of scooter “gang” moments that seemed to drag on forever and also suck. Secondly, Tom couldn’t decide early on if UMart and their management was a cool and fulfilling place to work or a soulless corporate beast who’s management was comprised entirely of (white) a-holes who were looking for the flimsiest excuse to fire Larry. College as a requirement to work at a Walmart? Who are they kidding? The whole disparity in tone kind of threw me off early on. Finally, like everyone else on the planet, colleges are suffering from the budget crunch. I sincerely doubt there would be enough budget for a class called “The Art of Casual Speaking”.
So a total of 5 stars. Not bad. The actors will carry you through the movie, and you will leave the feeling with a warm feeling in your gut. I would say wait for NetFlix, but if you are looking for a date movie you literally couldn’t pick a better film. If the awkward romance between Julia and Tom doesn’t melt her heart (and put her in the mood for other things, if you know what I mean) than I would check her battery levels, as it is apparent that your date has been replaced by some kind of robot and she needs a recharge.