Although Larry Crowne, a movie starring and directed by Tom Hanks, may seem out of place in a slew of summertime fare aimed at the teen set, Hanks, once a master of the season shows that he still fits in well with the warm weather months.
Crowne doesn’t have the gunfights, bomb blasts or superhero mutants, but it does have heart, intelligence and a simple story that resonates.
It’s subtle in that a lot of consistent laughs that the movie generates adds up to one satisfying film experience that most audiences can enjoy.
It’s been written time and again that Hanks is or was an everyman for film audiences when he was younger. Little has changed in the intervening years as the director and co-writer of the film along with My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s Nia Vardalos shows plenty of skill in handling his subject matter.
And it’s a relevant story as Hanks plays the title character, a man who gets downsized out of his job because he doesn’t have a college degree. Saddled with a $400,000 mortgage that he cannot realistically afford – although the one inconsistency is how he paid for it working for a department head for a big box retailer – Crowne realizes that along with his career, he has to downsize his life and find a new direction for himself. That includes selling off some possessions and trading in the SUV for a scooter.
That leads him to East Valley Community College, a move that will allow him to make himself recession proof, or so he thinks. It’s there that he meets a cast of characters that include Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a scooter aficionado and her Euro motorbike riding buds, who begin to move his life in a different direction.
It’s when he meets his speech teacher, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), a professor at East Valley in a lousy marriage to a former colleague (Bryan Cranston) with a case of arrested development who has quit caring, ironic considering she tells her would-be students that the one thing her class will make them do is care.
Larry Crowne’s broader message is about life changes – especially in an America that doesn’t resemble 30 years ago or even 10 years ago. That’s the movie’s strength and Hanks plays to it.
The last film he directed was the vastly under rated That Thing You Do! the story of a fledgling rock band from Erie, Penn. in the ‘60s. Even then he showed a confident hand. With Crowne his understanding of the average Joe comes through both as a filmmaker and actor. He brings out the emotion with subtlety, but the humor flows effortlessly and continuously.
That in turn makes it easier for Hanks the actor and everyone else around him. Roberts, she of perpetural earthiness, hasn’t been this radiant, likeable and vulnerable on screen in ages. The supportung cast, including Mbatha-Raw, Wilmer Valderama of That ‘70s Show fame and Cedric the Entertainer as Larry’s neighbor all are given moments to shine in Hanks and Vardalos’ light, breezy and honest script.
Larry Crowne is a sweet, intelligent comedy with its heart in the right place.
Movie: Larry Crowne
Director: Tom Hanks
Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Cedric the Entertainer, Wilmer Valderama
Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at ClevelandCinemas.com, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com