You gotta like Tom Hanks. His list of fine film performances make him his generation’s Jimmy Stewart. He is natural and accessible as an actor, and deceptively talented. But in “Larry Crowne,” it’s like watching a cut-rate Tom Hanks. You know it’s him, but somehow that famous, interesting, convincing credibility factor is missing.
Hanks plays a guy who works at a discount store called U Mart. A frequent winner of Employee of the Month, he’s a comfortable middle class success story, even though somewhat victimized by a recent divorce. One fine day, when he’s expecting another award, he is instead given his walking papers because he doesn’t have a college Degree.
His character goes on unemployment, let’s the bank take his house, sells his gas guzzling SUV and buys a scooter from a neighbor, played by St. Louisan Cedric the Entertainer. He enrolls at a local Junior College and signs up for 3 courses in order to boost his employment opportunities. One of the courses is in conversational speech and it’s taught by an instructor played by Julia Roberts who is in a bad marriage and is totally unmotivated, in addition to drinking a lot.
Can you guess what comes next?
Tom Hanks directs “Larry Crowne” and co-wrote it with Nia Vardalos of “Greek Wedding” fame. The chemistry between Roberts and Hanks is not authentic, sort of like two friends pretending.
Hank’s real wife, Rita Wilson, has a funny turn as a mortgage banker. Roxana Ortega as a new-found friend in school is an appealing actress.
But “Larry Crowne,” while telling an important story, seems to be content to be average in everything, just like its central character.
Average doesn’t sell tickets, even when Tom Hanks is doing it.