Tom Hanks Project – “Larry Crowne” Review

26 Feb

larry_crowne_2If this was the first movie Hanks wrote and directed, we could chalk it up to our favorite actor being outside his element. Maybe he was just meant to deliver dialogue, not write and direct it. But we’ve seen Hanks write and direct the exceptional That Thing You Do! so his failure here is harder to stomach. The formula for Larry Crowne seems like it would be charming enough*. Hanks plays a nice guy working at a Walmart-esque store who gets fired and decides to go back to college. Along the way he makes college friends with a scooter gang and falls for his teacher, Julia Roberts. But as Ebert notes in his two star review, “the screenplay carries blandness to a point beyond tedium.” We hadn’t seen this one and I was hoping the consensus was wrong, but sadly they were not. Larry Crowne is woefully boring and lacking in conflict, and even the romance stinks. Somehow George Takei as an economics professor was the only good part of this movie**.

*And, in the beginning, I’d argue it is.

**I’d sign up for Econ with George at the helm.larry-crowne-nunca-es-tarde-045We start with Crowne (note the mug with the crown on it) being called into the break room for what he expects is another employee of the month award*. Instead, Rob Riggle and the corporate execs fire him because he never went to college and therefore can’t move up into management. Don’t know how that makes sense, but there ya go**. So Crowne applies for a few jobs with no luck and decides his best option is to sell his stuff (but not his house or car?) and go to college.

*The setup to this is a little heartbreaking because we see how fantastic Crowne is at his job — he picks up garbage, collects carts, straightens products on shelves, all with the big grin on his face that you see in the above photo. He’s content.

**I think Zack’s hatred of this film may have blinded him to some of the nuances of it. It’s pretty well-explained that they have to make cuts, and because there’s no growth opportunity for Hanks (due to his lack of degree) he’s the obvious cut to make for the business. I’m not saying I agree with the approach, but it was believable enough. As I mentioned, I actually thought the start of this film was well done.

larry-crowne-movie-photo-13-550x828Hanks starts school with Julia Roberts playing an uninspired public speaking teacher* to him and Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek. She’s a borderline alcoholic who doesn’t seem to care about teaching and hates her porn-loving husband, Bryan Cranston. He’s really only there so we can hate him and not feel bad for him when Julia ends up with Hanks. They really filled up on future TV drama leads who did little to nothing in this movie**.

*SO uninspired. She’s an alcoholic mess. Before we get to this point, the dean of students promises Hanks that this is a class that will change his life, and we NEVER see anything at all that would imply this is really going to happen.

**Taraji P. Henson from Empire is Hanks’ neighbor.

Larry_Crowne

Hanks’ more interesting teacher is George Takei as his economics teacher. He’s so dry and funny. His dialogue is nothing special, he’s just naturally the best. George Takei taking Hanks’ cell phone from him in every class made me laugh every. time.

Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) mit ihrr Roller-Gang

A large chunk of the movie is about Hanks befriending a “gang” of scooter riders who ride around at slow speeds doing not much of anything. There’s the cute girl who decides to be Hanks’ best friend and organize his house for him*. There’s nothing sexual going on between them, but that doesn’t stop her boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama from feeling threatened. She gives Tom’s clothes and house a makeover and suddenly he’s cool. I mean, he still acts like an awkward dad over-pronouncing “spec-tack-you-larr” to himself over and over for no reason while getting on his scooter**. But he seems cooler thanks to new clothes, a haircut and a house with good Feng shui. It’s all as lame as it sounds and leads up to the big romantic ending that falls flat. We’ll get into that in the romance section.

*This relationship is always a little creepy because everyone things that these two are somehow going to have a romance but they insist they won’t and never do. I don’t know. I wanted Hanks to have a fun best friend but there is just a weirdness to it.

**The “fashion upgrade” is SO BAD. He wears a chain on his jeans. A CHAIN, PEOPLE.

Laugh Out Loud Caitlin: 57 Zack: 9 This movie is painfully unfunny most of the time. Caitlin admitted she laughed so much because she wanted it to be good. I wanted that too. I just got a feeling it was a bust early on and never got on board. I laughed 115 times at That Thing You Do! which is a stunning contrast to this 9. Zack was in “actively hate” mode for this film. I found aspects charming, but I agree that it was overwhelmingly a flop.

Comedy Caitlin: 5  Zack: 4 George Takei was legit funny. Rami Malek was kinda silly funny. Tom isn’t funny at all. Julia was depressing. It’s not a funny movie. It just isn’t. I agree that George was the comedic anchor to the film. I did NOT find Rami funny (I don’t think anyone knew exactly what his character was supposed to be — a slacker, sure, but like…a stoner? A jock? He seemed to make fun of everyone but nobody found him cool so it was just bizarre.) I thought Tom’s “spec-tack-you-larr” was HILARIOUS, and in general found him totally endearing. Julia Roberts can suck it.

Cry/Eye Cover: Both: 0. Not even close. We should have counted Zack’s eye rolls instead on this one.

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Romance: Caitlin: 0  Zack: 3 This is the big failing of the movie. If the romance worked we would be more likely to overlook how corny and unfunny it is, but it fails at every aspect of creating a good love story.

  1. We don’t like Julia Roberts – She’s a miserable human, uninspiring teacher and is totally unlikeable in this movie. THE WORST. She’s an empty shell of what someone thought was “feministic” but in reality she’s just a negative sourpuss who cheats on her husband (make-out-wise) with Crowne before she’s actually split up and they are suddenly in love even though we see no development and UGH.
  2. We aren’t OK with her cheating on her husband – yeah, he’s kind of a crummy guy who isn’t good to her, but they’re still married and the worst faults of his we see are that he masturbates to internet porn when she isn’t home and says a super rude thing to her on the way home from dinner. Not good, but also not enough that we’re OK with it. I disagree here a little — we never see anything likable about Cranston’s character (I don’t even know his character’s name, he’s so poorly established) so it’s not like I’m heartbroken for him, but it’s more that if you start up a new relationship in the thick of a mess like that (and in an act like doing something really untrustworthy) I just think you’re doomed.
  3. Zero chemistry is built up between Tom and Julia – So what’s weird here is that all the cute scenes of two people coming together are Tom and the girl in his scooter gang. The meet cute, the texting in class, the helping each other achieve their goals. All those scenes are with the scooter girl. Yeah, we barely see Crowne and the professor together — she sort of just looks at him in class, just like she looks at all the students. It’s a mess.
  4. She’s his teacher – Sure, it’s different when both people are fully grown adults, it’s still not good to make out with your teacher when she’s drunk and you’re not. +1. On that note…
  5. Tom kind of takes advantage of her being drunk – This was not a good look. She’s straight up drunk and while it’s nice that Tom helps her get home, he lingers creepily on her porch when it’s clear he should leave. She awkwardly starts making out with him and leaps into him, wrapping her legs around him. I turned to Caitlin after the scene and asked, “So … what did we think about that?” knowing she wouldn’t be into it. She wasn’t. It was bad. The movie ends with them getting together and is supposed to be a feel-good ending, but I know I didn’t feel good about it. I wish wish wish that Hanks and his co-writer didn’t feel obligated to shoehorn a romance into this thing. If this movie had simply been about a man, recently divorced and laid off, trying to get his life back on track, it’d be SO much better. It’d be more in line with a film like The Terminal, where nothing is promised (because nothing is in life), but there’s hope and there’s a new day and we’re seizing it. As Gaga said, all this is, is a bad romance.

tom-hanks-as-larry-crowne-in-larry-crowne

Hanks Caitlin: 6 Zack: 4.5 Sorry, Tom. No 9 for you here. Half of that is the best I can do. There’s a couple scenes where we get Tom doing his usual good work, like when he gives his final speech in class, he turns it on, but he’s cheesy and lame through most of it. It’s honestly extra disappointing because Tom wrote and directed this and it should have been significantly better. I am going to give Hanksy more credit than Zack. In the very beginning of the film, when he’s being laid off and returns home and his eyes tear, and even after, as he’s pounding the pavement and looking for work, he gives a subtle performance that I think really speaks to the times in which this movie was birthed. Again, I think if we’d focused on that kind of triumphant return to some kind of life renewed, that would have been far better. But instead this film becomes oddly campy.

Movie: Caitlin: 4 Zack: 4 It’s a failure on basically every level. The small cameos from actors I like were really the only thing I enjoyed about it. I will never watch this movie again and am surprised Tom wrote and directed it. We haven’t even mentioned the fact that Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson are Tom’s neighbors — their scenes are entertaining and their relationship with Crowne is way more enjoyable than with Julia Roberts. I think the biggest failure for me in this thing is that it’s clear that a pair of middle-aged people wrote the scenes where young people are trying to make Crowne “cool.” It just makes the whole thing feel a bit forced and inauthentic, and really distracts from the actual meat of the story which is that Crowne is trying to get back on his feet. If we removed the scooter gang, the weird relationship with the young college girl, and goddamn Julia Roberts, I think there’d be a story here that could be inspiring and sweet. Maybe we should just go watch The Pursuit of Happyness, instead.

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