‘Larry Crowne’ an upbeat adult romance
Finally, a good adult romantic comedy in the silly summer season of 2011.
“Larry Crowne” is Tom Hanks’ baby, and he has done himself proud.
Hanks produced, co-wrote (with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s” Nia Vardalos), directed and stars (with his
friend Julia Roberts) in this timely tale of survival in tough economic times.
Larry Crowne (Hanks) is a hard-working employee at a big-box discount retailer called U-Mart. As the story opens Larry is being called into the boss’s office. He smugly assumes he getting another Employee of the Month award (his ninth), but no. Larry is being laid off. Because he has no college education, Crowne is deemed disposable.
Losing his job is just the latest in a bad luck streak. First his marriage crumbled, then Larry chose to buy out his ex-wife when the real estate market was at its peak. Now he is “upside down,” with a larger mortgage than his house is worth.
Instead of going to college, Larry enlisted in the US Navy and spent 20 years as a cook. With not much else to lose, he decides to enroll at East Valley Community College.
The learing Dean of Students encourages Larry to enroll in Speech 217, because the teacher is “something special.” As a more practical choice, Larry also enrolls in Econ 1.
Speech 217 is taught by the beautiful but bitter Ms. Tainot (Julia Roberts).
“Care” Ms. Tainot writes on the chalkboard, because she thinks no one does. She even tries to cancel the 8 a.m. class when the required 10 students fail to show up. At the last minute, in comes Larry.
The Econ 1 teacher is as upbeat as Ms. Tainot is depressed. Dr. Matsutani (George Takei of “Star Trek” fame) literally wrote the book on financial success. Casting Takei was a brilliant stroke, because he is hilarious in his small but very familiar role of haughty pedant.
Casting Cedric the Entertainer as Larry’s neighbor and best buddy Lamar was another brilliant stroke.
Lamar is proprietor of a never-ending yard sale, and his advice comes in handy when Larry begins to liquidate his material possessions.
“Larry Crowne” takes everyday occurrences and weaves them into a believable comic thread. Larry buys an old Yamaha scooter from Lamar, which is a funny sight gag, and funnier still when Larry joins a “scooter gang” of kids half his age.
Among those kids is Talia (Gugu Mhatha), the pretty, stylish girlfriend of the scooter gang’s leader Del Gordo (Wilmer Valderrama).
When Talia takes it upon herself to restyle Larry into a hipper image, it sets up a jealousy subplot nicely milked by Valderrama (“That 70s Show”)
Another subplot is Ms. Tainot’s deteriorating relationship with her husband Dean (Bryan Cranston). Dean is allegedly writing a novel, but his wife knows he spends most of his time on the Internet, drinking and ogling large-breasted women. This will not end well, but the end will be funny.
“Larry Crowne” is no life-changing experience, but it is a life-affirming one. Sure there are a lot of people worse off than Larry Crowne, but this movie holds out the hope that if you keep plugging along, even if it is just as a short-order cook, just maybe things may get better. I’ll run that notion up the flagpole and give it a salute.