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Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TOM Hanks’ Larry Crowne is a timely tale of unemployment and inspirational teachers that’s curiously lacking in inspiration.

Co-written, directed by and starring Hanks it’s a passable crowd-pleaser that gets by more on the strength of its two leading performances than anything else.

But then Hanks will candidly admit that he’s more of an actor than a filmmaker (this is only the second feature film he’s directed since 1996’s That Thing You Do!). Sadly, it shows.

The film follows the story of everyman Larry Crowne (Hanks), a Navy veteran turned store worker, who suddenly finds himself let go by his employers for lack of educational skills.

Determined to put his life back together he enrols for an adult education class where its put-upon teacher, Mercedes (Julia Roberts) and fellow class-mate Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) offer him a second chance in life.

The former, in particular, provides an unlikely shot at romance, while the latter encourages him to embrace his cost-effective scooter and join her free-wheeling gang.

Given Hanks’ association with some of the best directors in the business (Spielberg, Zemeckis, Mendes) it’s surprising that Larry Crowne isn’t more sophisticated or daring.

Rather, it adopts a very ordinary approach that often feels like it’s coasting and which often makes its flaws all the more glaring.

Of particular surprise early on is just how poorly handled Crowne’s big firing scene is – opting for a comedic approach that feels crass and insensitive and everything that the laying off scenes in Up In The Air strove so well to avoid.

But this same slipshod approach to screenwriting is evident elsewhere, too, such as the woefully under-written approach to Bryan Cranston’s character (he deserved so much better as Roberts’ porn obsessed husband) or Cedric the Entertainer’s neighbour (a caricature more than a character that finds Cedric, once again, failing to live up to his name).

The mix of comedy and drama is also wildly uneven with Hanks, curiously, finding himself more at odds with the different kinds of humour (slapstick, feel-good or awkward situation style) than the drama (which works better in giving the film it’s heart).

What actually elevates Larry Crowne just above mediocrity is Hanks’ own winning performance as Crowne and Roberts’ semi acerbic one as his teacher and love interest.

Hanks, as ever, is full of charisma and so nice and determined as Larry that you can’t fail to root for him, while Roberts is a far better disaffected teacher than Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher – and with better reasons!

The two of them also trade well on the chemistry they first brought to the screen in Charlie Wilson’s War

Hence, it’s star power more than anything that keeps Larry Crowne on track and which makes it an interesting, if deeply flawed, addition to the Hanks CV.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 99mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 14, 2011