The first footage I ever saw from ‘Larry Crowne’ was a short clip that Tom Hanks showed on the first episode of Conan O’Brien’s TBS late night talk show. It showed Hanks stopped on an old scooter talking to Julia Roberts. Being a fan of Hanks, I was all about seeing his latest film until Julia Roberts showed up on screen. After that, I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in ‘Larry Crowne’ anymore. When I walked into the press screening, with the exception of that one scene, I knew nothing about the film. Imagine my joyous surprise when it actually started to win me over.
I was completely oblivious to the fact that Hanks co-wrote and directed ‘Larry Crowne’ until seeing it in the opening credits. As a big fan of ‘That Thing You Do!’ (which Hanks also wrote and directed) and ‘The Great Buck Howard’ (which he produced), this news instantly replaced my dreadful attitude with one of hope and excitement.
Hanks plays title character Larry Crowne. Even though the specifics are never mentioned, it’s obvious that Larry hasn’t had an easy life. After spending 20 years as a chef in the Navy, he got married. Something bad came between the couple and they ended up divorcing, which took its toll on Larry. He spent several years trying to get back on his feet. Now a 50-something, Larry works the only job he qualifies for outside of a kitchen – a retail sales representative at U-Mart, an obvious knock-off of K-Mart.
With economical times being the way they are, despite Larry being the best employee in the store, he gets laid off due to his age and lack of education. Just when he’s back on his feet from having his “clocks cleaned by his ex-wife,” he gets knocked down again. Having been to rock bottom once before, Larry knows exactly what he must do – get right back up and beat the system. So he enrolls in East Valley Community College to finally get an education.
Imagine a version of NBC’s ‘Community’ that took itself a little more seriously (but remained lightweight) and featured mostly angelic characters. There’s hardly a negative role in ‘Larry Crowne’. I hate the term “feel-good movie,” but ‘Larry Crowne’ lies in that category. The character makes friends everywhere he goes – no matter the age, color or social differences. Because he’s not afraid to make new friends, Larry quickly and bravely starts a new chapter in his life.
Now, having seen trailers and television spots for the movie, I worry that it’s being marketed as a feel-good film for middle-age adults, and that it won’t draw out younger audiences. The nice thing about ‘Larry Crowne’ is that the movie is full of enough widely different characters that any audience college age or above can connect with and enjoy it – even if it does co-star Julia Roberts.
I tend to steer clear of celebrity gossip, but Roberts’ ego translates onto the screen and drives me nuts. I usually can’t stand her. Even though her usual layer of smugness is present throughout ‘Larry Crowne’, she has moments when the old Julia shines through and she become loveable again.
If you’ve liked Hanks-produced Playtone films (‘Where the Wild Things Are’, ‘Mama Mia!’, ‘The Great Buck Howard’, ‘Starter for 10’, and of course ‘That Thing You Do!’), and would like to see the actor return to his comedic roots, don’t miss ‘Larry Crowne’. It’s a feel-good film actually worth feeling good about.