Mopeds Mo’ Problems: LARRY CROWNE Film Review

By at July 3, 2011 | 10:34 am | Print

3 / 5 stars

What a pleasant thing to live in a world where Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are still making movies. In Larry Crowne, Hanks is not only the star but also the producer, director, and writer (along with co-writer Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

As indicated by the title, the movie is all about one Larry Crowne, an all around nice guy with a strong work ethic. So strong, Crowne seems to be channeling Hank Hill during an entertaining opening sequence that has him zipping around the Target-like UMart, cheerfully cleaning up kid vomit and teaching his fellow co-workers that the clothes on one rack should be organized a certain way not just because that is what the staff is told to do, but because it is the right thing to do, gosh darn it.

Despite being the best employee a place like UMart will ever get, Crowne’s heartless and brainless bosses fire him for lacking a college education, which was preventing UMart from following its policy of helping employees advance. This doesn’t exactly make sense but it does seem like the kind of unbelievable nonsense that stores like UMart get away with. Besides, it’s the impetus for Crowne to go community college, which is where his adventures begin!

There, we get this fish-out-of-water story in which the 50-year-old Crowne is exposed to the world of the young: text message acronyms, moped gangs, thrift store fashion, and slacker ADD college kid humor. Crowne manages to be inspired by his jaded, uninspired speech professor, Mercedes (Julia Roberts). She blames the degradation of college education on the gadgets and gizmos of today and is particularly offended by her husband’s successful career as a blogger, partly because it affords him the convenience of much online porn viewing. She’s not much of a catch herself, drowning herself in homemade frozen margaritas every evening but, as one might expect, when you put Hanks’ and Roberts’ characters together, the magic happens.

The film is enjoyable enough and elicits a good amount of laughs. However, if the camera did not have Hanks and Roberts to hover on, there would be nothing to distract us from the fact that the movie doesn’t work. Hanks is charming and Roberts is magnetic even when playing the bitter woman. But the large supporting cast is underdeveloped despite being set up to have plenty of interesting characters (the 80s flick Summer School does a better job on this front). The driving force for Crowne’s change in appearance, the “free-spirited” Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), comes off more stalker-ish than charismatic at times (cute as she may be). When the film’s characters find Talia more interesting than the audience does, something doesn’t make sense.

And when Crowne gives his final speech for class, we get all the hints that this is a Great Moment: the camera slowly zooms in, the music swells, and Mercedes looks like she has been completely won over. But the words are all just incoherent babble. Surprising, since they’re coming from Tom Hanks’ mouth, which should at least count for something. But my easily inspired soul was unmoved.

The movie gets lost in its own cuteness and silliness. It tries hard but the cohesion is missing.┬áThe audience doesn’t cheer for Larry Crowne, really — it cheers for Tom Hanks to stay away from movies like The Da Vinci Code and do more comedies.

Perhaps Larry Crowne‘s lesson is supposed to be that you should always be a good teacher regardless of your students. And you should always be a good student regardless of your teacher. That being a good person, like Crowne, matters in the end. But the lesson seems to be that if you can manage to romance the crabby teacher, she’ll give you an A+.

Side note: I have a sneaking suspicion the movie is actually a campaign to get the kind of people who watch Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts movies to switch out their SUVs for the more environmentally-friendly moped. In which case, I suggest everyone go see this movie.

Good things I would be remiss not to mention: Actors Malcolm Barrett (Better Off Ted) and Wilmer Valderrama (That 70s Show) doing some good stuff. And a very weird and funny George Takei (imagine Sulu from the original Star Trek teaching you economics!).

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One Comment

  1. Brent Armour, 6 years ago Reply

    I was kinda surprised when Tom Hanks stepped in for Richard Gere in “Larry Crowne”, the way too late for anyone to care “Pretty Woman” Sequel.

    So now our big shot, likeshimselfsomehookers, billionaire has fallen victim to the recession like everyone else, and is now unemployed and just kind of all around sad, really. He finds out quickly that a degree in whoremongering doesn’t get him anywhere so he swallows his pride and goes back to school. In a severe twist of fate, made even punchier by all of the ‘teacher/schoolboy’ fantasies they’ve played out in the past, Julia Roberts is teaching the class: “How sell your soul to the dark lord and never age……

    Read the rest of this review @

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