'Larry Crowne' falls short with bland script

2011-07-05T14:00:00Z 'Larry Crowne' falls short with bland scriptLinda Cook The Quad-City Times
July 05, 2011 2:00 pm  • 

I cannot begin to tell you how bland this movie is.

"Larry Crowne," starring two of the finest performers around, is a boring, unfunny movie. It's not that the two stars don't deliver, but they just don't have much to do that's entertaining.

This is a dressed-up television sitcom, and a poor one at that, in which goofy characters do and say goofy things that are supposed to be funny. The fact that the incredibly talented Tom Hanks directed it, and that he wrote it along with Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") makes matters worse.

The movie starts out on solid ground, then moves to shaky in the blink of an eye. We first see Hanks as Larry Crowne in nice-guy mode. He works in a "U Mart," where he greets customers, coaches other employees and earns Employee of the Month honors multiple times.

That is, until the day he gets called into the break area, which, perhaps not coincidentally, is when the show begins to go downhill. Larry is let go, in the presence of several other people, because he has no college education. The layoff is flippant and played for nonexistent laughs.

Larry is "upside-down" on his house and up to his eyeballs in debt. He tries to find employment. but is told, "We're sorry," everywhere he goes. Finally, he enrolls in three classes at a community college.

One of the classes is economics, taught by a professor played by George Takei. His role is astonishingly absent of humor and comes across as bizarre. Larry's public-speaking teacher is Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), a sort of PG-13 version of the "Bad Teacher" played by Cameron Diaz on a neighboring screen.

Mercedes drinks too much and argues constantly with her husband. Her life and her work disappoint her, and she says as much to her fellow instructor (Pam Grier). Her heart just isn't in teaching anymore.

Meanwhile, Talia (the adorable Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the most interesting character in the movie, befriends Larry. She tells him how to dress and invites him to become part of her "scooter posse" of students who park their scooters together at school.

I won't go into any more details. You'll see what's coming.

If seeing Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks onscreen together is enough for you, you will be satisfied with this. If you want to see Hanks and Roberts together in a superlative film, watch "Charlie Wilson's War."

 

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