After losing his job, a middle-aged man reinvents himself by going to college. There he becomes part of a scooter gang and finds himself attracted to one of his professors. Yes, you heard correctly – a scooter gang – but more on this after the jump.
LARRY CROWNE stars and is directed by Tom Hanks. It has been panned by the critics for being too sweet and optimistic. Perhaps American audiences in particular didn’t respond to the film’s odd take on financial downsizing, foreclosure and unemployment.
The story begins with Larry getting fired from his job at a Walmart-style store. At this point and intermittently throughout, the movie seems to be saying something about living through hard times – the problem is, Larry doesn’t have any tough times. Things come to him as he requires them. He has a few nervous days of not having work, but this problem is solved when he runs into his entrepreneurial neighbour played by Cedric the Entertainer. Get an education, he says, Larry thinks this is a fine idea, so off he goes.
Larry arrives at Community College and immediately runs into the Dean of Admissions who tells him what courses to take. On his first day proper on campus, he meets a hot girl (Roxana Ortega) who invites him to become part of her scooter gang. The gang is made up of your basic 20-something hipsters. They ride their scooters around, Larry hangs with them and learns about the cool things hipsters know about, like interior design and how to dress better.
Larry’s path eventually intersects with Professor Tainot (Roberts) in her Speech class. The Prof. has lost her mojo. She is in a bad marriage with a lazy husband (Cranston) who is supposed to be working from home, but in reality spends his day surfing the web for porn. She doesn’t enjoy teaching any more and treats Larry’s class with barely disguised contempt.
Only the recently-born can fail to see that Larry and the Professor are about to transform each others lives. And here you have a choice if you’re watching this movie. You can find the set up and characters pitifully thin and respond cynically or you can kick back and enter a feel-good universe that has about as much resemblance to the real world as Narnia does.
Professor Tainot and the shiftless hubby never had kids. Larry had a wife and kids, but what happened to them is never discussed. So even though the Professor is in her forties and Larry is in his fifties, teenage or adult offspring aren’t hanging around to mess things up. Larry never for one moment resists learning new things or feels seriously out of his depth despite never having been to college. In a way he is as innocent as Forrest Gump – he just has a higher IQ.
The script is written by Hanks and Nia Vardalos who wrote and starred in MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. And for many reasons, like those noted above, it’s a light, airy and unbelievable piece of entertainment. However, it also ticks over like clockwork. If you’re looking for an undemanding rom-com with lots of gentle laughs, this is your movie. It’s a middle-brow film for middle-aged audiences.
And if you think I’m praising it with faint damnation, then you’d be wrong. I enjoyed LARRY CROWNE. I’m not a Hanks or Roberts fan, but I was won over by the old pros doing their thing expertly. I laughed where I was supposed to as did the audience I saw this with. The film isn’t cool, it isn’t realistic, but it is fun.
LARRY CROWNE is screening now in Australian cinemas. It runs for 98 minutes. I rated it a 3/5.