Thursday, July 14, 2011

Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks, 2011) -- C

Larry Crowne offers a refreshing bit of modesty and humility when compared with its aggressively raunchy brethren (like Horrible Bosses or Bad Teacher), but it's ultimately just as contrived in its wholly complacent, borderline ridiculously naive perspective. Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) loses his retail job (some nonsense about him never going to college), which propels him towards the local community college, where he meets babe prof Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who's naturally going through rocky times in her marriage and having an identity crisis about her role as educator ("Does anyone even care what I'm talking about?"). Essentially a successive series of meet-cute's and whacky characters, Larry Crowne is cookie-cutter humanism, superficially suggesting self-expression and a positive outlook (Tainot's mantra of "care" makes the rote 180 by film's end) are the keys to happiness and self-fulfillment. Supporting players Wilmer Valderrama and George Takei get some nice moments, and Hanks is considerably nuanced with his schleppy lead. Little of this matters when the script (co-written by Hanks and Nia Vardalos) is so minute, inconsequential, and innocuous, it's a wonder the film doesn't just disintegrate right off the screen. Hanks' direction adds a few deft touches (split-screen work early at least shows some effort), but he directs dialogue exchanges with tone-deaf pacing and beats, leaving the film to rely solely on the goodwill of its characters, which wears thin well before the 2/3 point.

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