With the holiday theaters generating nothing but broken Transformers, Bad Teachers and pop-up Penguins, a hunk of fluff like “Larry Crowne” becomes a summery cinematic lifeboat for us adults.
Although it was savagely attacked by a phalanx of sophisticated film critics as being too corny and lacking chemistry, what could be more entertaining than an afternoon ride around the valley on a motor scooter driven by Tom Hanks, with Julia (Sigh!) Roberts clinging to his back?
Maybe the popcorn was just extra-tasty, or the air conditioned theater extra-comfy, but this romantic comedy about grown-ups dealing with adjusting to a post-recession world will leave you downright upbeat. It’s casually quite funny.
No one is very believable, of course, but everyone is happy and cheerful.
Cedric the Entertainer runs a front yard sale that’s about the size of Wal-Mart. And a gang of unusually pleasant scooter-riding college students are led by Araji P. Henson and Wilmer Valderrama playing against type. And there’s a speech class full of loveable misfits who learn (painlessly, yet) the art of public speaking.
George Takai is a gleeful Economics teacher in a dry-as-dust subject, and Julia? Sigh. For the first part of the film, she’s stuck with the only noticeable villain in sight, (a writer, naturally, who spends his days at his computer, guzzling booze and surfing porn sites – don’t they all?). He’s played alcoholically perfect by Bryan Cranston.
Once the villain (and the minor discount store baddies who fire poor Tom Hanks for being a great but uneducated employee) have been dispatched, the various joys of attending a speech class taught by Ms. Roberts ensue.
True, she and Tom do not have the sexually charged chemistry that, say, one finds in the recent rash of popular/moronic Teenage Vampire films. But Julia and Tom have both been around the block a couple times. They’re frankly refreshing, and able to actually communicate a healthy and mutual physical interest without thrusting their tongues down one anothers throat. Well, at least at first.
Mr. Hanks knew what he was doing to start with. After all, he directed the film, and co-wrote the script with Nia Vardalos (of Greek Wedding fame). He plays a nice guy, a Geezer-in-Training who’s put 20 years in the Navy as a cook, and then happily worked at U-Mart until being downsized.
One rather suspects that those film critics who blasted “Larry Crowne,” after enduring a summer of uninspiring sequals, noisy comic book heros dredged up from the 1940’s and action films offering naught but staggering stupidity, will look back on this mild little feel-good chick flick with something akin to nostalgia.
Film review by Carl Larsen