“Larry Crowne” purports to be another film that reflects the tough economic times that all too many Americans are facing. While it’s an innocuous way to spend 90 minutes, it is certainly no “Up In The Air.”
The titular character, Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks), is a hardworking team leader at a San Fernando Valley U-Mart, a big chain retailer modeled after you know what. Despite being well-like by colleagues and having been named “employee of the month” eight times, Larry is called into a meeting with store executives and told that he is being let go because he lacks a college degree. While the film implies that he is a victim of downsizing, it seems that he is instead hurt by a new, sudden “up or out” philosophy at the store since he is told that without the sheepskin he can never be promoted.
Be that as it may, after pounding the pavement and discovering that it is hard to find a decent paying job when you are over 50, Larry decides to enroll in fictional East Valley Community College in the hopes that it will lead to a better economic future for him.
Rather than be told to enroll in technical classes such as accounting or computer networking, he is told be a liberal arts-oriented major and to take speech, composition (although we never see him in that class) and Economics 101.
Larry’s speech professor, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), is a bitter burnout whose favorite activity at home is breaking out the blender and downing one margarita after another. She is married to failing writer (Bryan Cranston) who spends his days surfing the web for new porn sites. It is only a matter of time until she finds herself attracted to the salt-of-the-earth Larry.
It is unfortunate that “Larry Crowne” had the ingredients to be a good film but it loses its focus rather early. We are supposed to believe that AARP member Larry would be sought out by a group of young, mostly Hispanic, motorcycle riders to be their newest member. To be fair, in a refreshing change of pace, motorcycle enthusiasts are portrayed as upstanding citizens instead of criminal gang members. The film also points out the great gas mileage motorcycles get.
The notion that Roberts’ character, an aspiring Medieval English scholar would embark on a romance with Hanks’, a part-time short order cook who is now a full-time student where she teaches, is rather far-fetched, even for romantic comedies.
One positive for the film is its supporting cast. Cedric the Entertainer nearly steals the film as Larry’s next door neighbor who is always having a flea market on his lawn. He enjoys the haggling far more than the actual selling. The always welcome Rob Riggle is hysterical as a blowhard U-Mart executive who gets his comeuppance.
“Larry Crowne” is not an awful film. It just should have been a lot better.