Friday, July 1, 2011

MOVIE: LARRY CROWNE


The studios have spat out another summer comedy with two big stars: Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in LARRY CROWNE. The stars can't steer this sappy, poorly executed, and ill-conceived hunk of nonsense-- penned by Hanks and Nia (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING) Vardalos-- away from the fate it deserves: oblivion.

Hanks cheerfully condescends to his character Larry Crowne, proud manager of a Walmart-esque big box store; Hanks plays him like John Wayne-- roaming the shelves, corralling the carts, herding the help--until he's suddenly fired just because he doesn't have a college degree. Divorced and unable to pay his mortgage, Larry enrolls in the local community college where he meets a beautiful sourpuss of a teacher in the form of Julia Roberts. Dripping with cynicism, Roberts "Miss Tainot" displaces her frustration at her bad marriage and sneers at her students daily. And she's supposed to be a GOOD teacher. After all, she teaches Shakespeare and speech-making and thus hates all modern technology like cell phones, computers and their evil spawn: Facebook and Twitter; it doesn't help that her husband (BREAKING BAD'S Bryan Cranston) is addicted to internet porn. She's ripe for the old-fashioned Larry who shows up all smiles in her classroom, and is now driving a scooter to save money on gas.

What happens next boggles the mind. Hanks is immediately and without explanation adopted by a cute coed and her rag tag band of moped-ites who apparently wheel around campus saving square middle-aged men from making bad fashion choices. They decide Larry is "way cooler" than he appears, and proceed to toss Larry's polo shirts, re-decorate his house, and tweak his romantic life. He lets them. We know not who they are-- or why. Nor do we know why Roberts ever married her deadbeat husband in the first place. Or why she keeps a job she hates. Or why she gets drunk enough to attack Hanks in what is supposed to be a giddy funny kiss, but just looks awkward and out of nowhere. And apparently this has happened before-- with a delivery man. She seems psychotic. They both barely exist as characters. Cedric the Entertainer is Hanks "wacky" neighbor with the gloriously talented Taraji P. Henson wasted as his wife of five lines. There's George Takei as an eccentrically cheerful economics prof-- who also hates cell-phones. If his part were omitted, nothing would be missing except some relief from the annoying and cloying Hanks/Roberts coupling in progress.

The film looks dingy, lacks drama, and makes no sense. Let's call it MY BIG BLAND MIDDLE-AGED BEDDING.

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