For a film directed, co-written, and starring one of the best actors of our generation "Larry Crowne" is surprisingly plain. There isn't really a better way to explain or sum up the film or the character for that matter. Throughout his career Tom Hanks has been a part of many impressive films and created a number of memorable characters, but with one that he chooses to take on many roles with, one that he had a hand in creating you would think there would be more to it. That there was a real underlying reason, a spark about this character that not only made Hanks want to create and control the characters world, but to inhabit the role as well. Instead, as Larry Crowne Hanks seems to be embodying the public personification that is Tom Hanks. A humble, well-meaning, polite man who just wants to enjoy life and do the right thing. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, there is nothing wrong with watching Tom Hanks for what does feel like a brief hour and a half, but it just really feels like so much is missing here and throwing a supporting cast filled with great actors like Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston, and Taraji P. Henson isn't going to fill that void.

Larry Crowne considers college after his neighbors
(Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Hanson)
encourage him to do so. 
"Larry Crowne" tells the story of a man who served twenty years as a cook in the navy, retired and has since worked at a Wal-Mart like super store for ten years or so. He is divorced, no kids, but enjoys his job and is good at it hence the ninth employee of the month award he expects to win when he is called in for a meeting. Turns out what "Larry Crowne" is actually about is the current economic state and how it is affecting the real bread and butter that make up this wonderful country of ours. Larry is fired from his job due to downsizing and the lack of any higher education other than his high school diploma. This limits him to never moving up in the retail world. With such a quick douse of reality hitting this seamlessly light hearted comedy it is at first unclear what exactly Hanks is trying to say. It is a mystery as to what he is attempting to get across, to prove or even to simply find a voice for. It isn't long though before we get the picture. Yes, the recession serves as a nice backdrop for the story of a man who is forced to start over in life. Turns out the best thing Larry can think to do to begin a more promising anew is to go back to school. This of course, leads to the heart of the film where Hanks meets Roberts and though it isn't standard romantic comedy cliche it does veer dangerously close to being uber cheesy.

Larry Crowne certainly makes an impression on Julia Roberts.
It seems if Hanks really wanted to make a statement about the current economic culture he would have and would have absolutely no problem concocting that, but instead, what he does here is focus on the characters at hand. The set-up is simply that, background information and the real meat of the movie is delved into when Hanks begins his first day of class and quickly makes friends with Talia (the beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who along with her boyfriend Dell (Wilmer Valderrama) runs a scooter gang that Larry is quickly accepted into which ultimately leads to a whole new persona the slightly gooberish, mostly affable, Crowne is normally associated with. The bad thing is, past this there really isn't much more to Crowne. Sure, he is a nice guy and he does well at adopting to all the changes and shifts in culture that he encounters; and we never feel awkward about the lingering relationship between he and his professor, but there is simply to little to the character to warrant him a feature length film. That is where I question Hanks. Did he not realize this or was it just so late in the process it was too late to step back and realize maybe there wasn't as much substance as he anticipated. No matter what Tom Hanks wanted "Larry Crowne" to be, what it came out looking like is an excuse for Hanks to make a movie with all his friends.

Larry and Talia discuss final exams over a nice cup of coffee.
That is not to say "Larry Crowne" is a bad movie, it's not, but it isn't really that great of one either, especially when you consider the talent backing this thing. The sheer potential it had by that alone warrants much higher expectations than this cute little comedy delivers. There are a handful of laughs and we can see the resolution coming a mile away. That is, if there really is one. Like I said, "Larry Crowne" is almost more character study than narrative story. We don't ever feel cheated into buying a ten dollar movie ticket to sit around and watch Hanks and Roberts hang out with one another simply because they are so likeable, but you might imagine their sense of artistry would make them want to shoot a little higher than that. If you've already made them, cancel your reservations to meet Larry Crowne and reschedule it for when he is released on DVD and blu-ray.

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