Larry Crowne (director/writer/star Tom Hanks), once a cook with the US Navy, now a dedicated and mild-mannered employee with a large department store, is laid off due to constrained financial times and his lack of a college degree. Initially shell-shocked, he quickly adjusts by enrolling in a local community college in the hope of making himself both employable and sack-proof. He makes two acquaintances, the young free-spirit Talia who teaches him to be cool and the lecturer in his Speech class (Mercedes – Julia Roberts) who is deeply depressed and struggling in her marriage to a blogger/porn-surfer.


The credentials of this film are impeccable – Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, George Takei and Bryan Cranston on acting duties, Hanks himself directing for the big screen for the first time since That Thing You Do!, working from a script that Hanks and Big Fat Greek Wedding’s Nia Vardalos developed – but that only makes it all the more frustrating for the end product to be so limp. There are some worthwhile elements, including an effort to deal with the human fall-out from the credit crunch and global recession, some witty and enjoyable cameos and a general feeling of warmth about the whole project, but it doesn’t translate into a compelling or satisfying experience. The conclusion is so crushingly obvious and inevitable that it removes anything remotely resembling dramatic tension and none of the characters (even Hanks’ protagonist) are given enough back story for us to care deeply enough about what happens to them.

Everyone looks like they’ll be fine, everyone winds up doing fine and although not every film needs grit and bleakness to be worthwhile, the feeling one is left with is akin to eating candy floss – sweet, enjoyable enough, but ultimately empty and unsatisfying. There’s not enough snap to the script, which needs to zing, but trundles instead. Likewise the narrative and pacing plod along like a personification of Crowne. Clearly everyone concerned can do better and has done on more occasions than we can count, which makes the laziness displayed in drifting from one plot point to the next with no difficulties for any of the characters along the way all the more galling. Fun to watch, but instantly forgettable and a missed opportunity for a much more compelling comedy drama about an important and timely issue. You can rent or buy Larry Crowne here, but you might just want to watch Up in the Air again instead.


Extras: Fluffy and disposable, like the film itself. Some deleted scenes, rightly excised, an interview with Hanks that is quickly over, a making-of and an “on set fun” featurette. Poor.


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Dave has been writing for HeyUGuys since mid-2010 and has found them to be the most intelligent, friendly, erudite and insightful bunch of film fans you could hope to work with. He's gone from ham-fisted attempts at writing the news to interviewing Lawrence Bender, Renny Harlin and Julian Glover, to writing articles about things he loves that people have actually read. He has fairly broad tastes as far as films are concerned, though given the choice he's likely to go for Con Air over Battleship Potemkin most days. He's pretty sure that 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most overrated mess in cinematic history.