In his first feature film as director since 1996's That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks tries to capture the life of a middle-aged man starting over in a world of young people he doesn't quite fit into.
The premise is quite interesting and the A-list power actors fronting the film aren't too shabby, but the story itself is fairy forgettable.
Hanks plays Larry Crowne, an extremely lovable and sincere man who works as a manager at U-Mart (not to be confused with Wal-Mart of K-Mart) until he is fired for not having a college education. You instantly feel a connection to Crowne - he is a hardworking man who's fallen under truly hard times and it all just seems devastatingly unjust.
But true to the self-reinvention theme throughout the film, Crowne picks himself up and decides to return to college so he never loses a job again. There, he's told by the Dean of Student Admission to take some communication and business courses. Cue Julia Roberts.
Roberts plays a jaded and emotionless communications professor who goes through her own kind of re-birth and rejuvenation throughout the course of the semester, as well as, her interactions with one very special class, which includes (you guessed it)... Larry Crowne.
As the film progresses, Crowne slowly becomes a better? version of himself, trading in his clunker SUV for a retro 1983 Yamaha Riva 180 scooter. He also joins a gang - a scooter gang - full of beautiful and ultra sophisticated college age students. Because we were ALL that cool in college.
There are integral parts of the film that are not explored and it ends up hindering the overall character development of Crowne. For example, we learn that Crowne is divorced and had to buy out his wife for their marriage nest. We learn that he has no kids, and *might* regret it? He also has a huge collection of vinyl records that are worth a lot of money (remember, he's going through tough times), which is mentioned at one point, but never actually talked about again.
Tom Hanks is probably the best part of the film. He plays a character you want to meet and become his friend. Crowne is open to things, but has an endearing awe about this new world of college, it's almost kid-like in its naivete. Hanks does the character justice in a role he can pull of with ease and consistency - he's the quintessential good-guy.
Roberts, on the other hand, is extremely unlikable in this film as harden professor Mercedes Tainot. She starts to soften as she begins to take more control over her life and circumstances. She has a deadbeat husband (who wasn't always that way) and a dead-end job that she can't seem to find the joy in. Crowne changes the way she views things, although she's reluctant to let his charm get to her. Roberts pulls off the role, but she doesn't really offer any particular sparkle.
The making of Larry Crowne involves a close-knit family affair of sorts. Hanks co-wrote the film with My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos (Hanks and wife Rita Wilson produced that feature film), although she doesn't appear in the movie (well she's the voice of the map-genie).
Hanks real-life wife, Wilson also co-stars as a "go-by-the-rules" bank manager who is trying to (kind of) help Crowne get his life on track.
They all make a good team and the film could have been even better if given another read-over to smooth out the holes and kinks in the script.
This sugary-sweet story has its charms, but overall it's a little too convenient. The characters easily "make-it" out of their troubles in a world that isn't always so easy. But then again, we wouldn't want to see a movie without a happy ending, would we?