Greetings again from the darkness. I view Tom Hanks as one of the
all-time giants among movie actors. He is true Hollywood royalty. When
I heard he was producing, directing, co-writing and starring in a new
film, I assumed it was his first step in becoming the new Clint
Eastwood. Sadly, Mr. Hanks broke the number rule of movie-making: have
a point to make or a story to tell. What we get is a 1980's flashback
when mainstream movies could be successful just by putting nice people
And nice people is what we get. Tom Hanks plays the ultimate nice guy as Larry Crowne. Crowne is the type who attracts nice people and makes them even nicer. Even when he loses his job, we never doubt that this nice guy will land on his feet and even be better off eventually. Oh no you don't ... stop trying to guess the ending! Other nice people are ... EVERY STUDENT in the speech class taught by Ms. Roberts, the L.A. scooter club that recruits Crowne, the Marine owner of a diner who hires Crowne, the lottery-winning neighbors of Crowne and the dean of students at the community college. The nicest one of all is Talia, played delightfully by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (from the awful "Undercovers" show that lasted less than one season).
The closest thing to a bad guy is Roberts' husband played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). His fault? He is a bit lazy (after writing two books) and he likes to look at swimsuit models on the internet. Sure, when the movie starts, Ms. Roberts character is at her lowest. She clearly drinks too much to mask her misery, though it's never clear just why she is so miserable.
But this is not a movie about conflict or tension or anything not nice ... even though it begins with a nice guy getting laid off from his job. The story and screenplay are co-written by Hanks and Nia Vardalos. You will remember her as the creative force behind the gem "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Unfortunately, this film is nowhere close to the level of that one.
If Mr. Hanks' goal is to become an important filmmaker in the vein of Clint Eastwood, or even Frank Capra, he will need to study the films that have made him rich and famous. Or at least study the best screwball comedies or rom-coms. A good movie must have CONFLICT! There needs to be something that creates interest for the viewer. Simple, bland, generic, nice, likable and swell can all play a part ... but they can't be EVERY part! My two favorite things about the film are George Takei and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Mr. Takei (of Star Trek fame) provides some of the few laughs in the film as a very meticulous Economics professor. His voice and mannerisms inspire us to smile and ultimately laugh outloud. Gugu is just terrific as the idealistic free-spirit who transforms Crowne and lights up her every scene. Can't wait to see what she does next.
As you might expect, supporting actors lined up to work with Hanks and Julia. Among those not mentioned above are Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji B. Henson (Crowne's neighbors), Wilmer Valderrama (Gugu's boyfriend), Rita Wilson (the mortgage officer), Pam Grier (professor), Grace Gummel (Meryl Streep's daughter as the 'pasta' speech student), and it's always nice to see Bob Stevenson on screen. He is one of the more underutilized deadpan comedic talents around.
There is little doubt that this film will find an audience. An audience that demands little from a movie. There is nothing wrong with two hours of back-slapping and giddy smiling ... as long as you get a story to go along with it.
Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance
Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance
Until he was downsized, affable, amiable Larry Crowne (Hanks) was a superstar team leader at the big-box company where he's worked since his time in the Navy. Underwater on his mortgage and unclear on what to do with his suddenly free days, Larry heads to his local college to start over. There he becomes part of a colorful community of outcasts, also-rans and the overlooked all trying to find a better future for themselves...often moving around town in a herd of scooters. In his public-speaking class, Larry develops an unexpected crush on his teacher Mercedes Tainot (Roberts), who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her husband. The simple guy who has every reason to think his life has stalled will come to learn an unexpected lesson: when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might discover your reason to live.
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November 01, 2011 at 06:23 PM