Larry Crowne (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

While I know this sounds like mediocrity, I can’t be mad at Larry Crowne because the film is just so damn pleasant.

 

 

Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is, like so many of us, feeling the crunch. Recently divorced and newly fired, the former eight-time employee of the month for a big box retailer is upside down in his mortgage and in need of a new start, fast.

After being let go for lacking the college education necessary to climb his company’s corporate ladder, Larry heads off to the halls of higher learning to make sure he never gets dumped for the same reason again, and he ends up with more of an education than he expected.

Larry Crowne is an easy, breezy kind of movie that plays to the middle. Larry’s bad breaks are mildly troubling, his good times aren’t so wild that they make you envious, and the jokes activate only the muscles that make you smile knowingly. While I know this sounds like mediocrity, I can’t be mad at Larry Crowne because the film is just so damn pleasant.

Do lucky coincidences improbably surround Larry? Well, sure they do. When he realizes he can’t keep filling his gas guzzling SUV, his neighbors-of-the-perpetual-yard-sale Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer) and B’Ella (Taraji P. Henson) just happen to have a motorized scooter they’re looking to part with. Larry drops by the community college just in time for the happy-go-lucky dean to pop in and suggest a beginning course load that includes a class taught by Mercedes (Julia Roberts). And, of course, when Larry’s motoring around one night he spots Mercedes at a bus stop and they end up having a night that changes both their lives.

What’s nice about a film where everything goes a bit too easily for the pliable protagonist? It makes us feel like good things, great and small, are possible. The character of Larry is interesting in that he takes complete control of his life after getting fired but also leaves room for lucky things to happen to him. Usually an up-and-at-‘em character like this is forced to learn how to let go during the course of the movie.

But, Larry is different. He does what he can to keep his situation manageable without any hint of a controlling death grip on his future. Is it possible to fall in with a biker gang and begin a platonic relationship with a young co-ed at middle age? Absolutely! Can you kiss your drunken teacher? Sure! Will you downsize your life and make it seem easy? Why not!

The relationship between Larry and Mercedes is notable in that, with the exception of that one make out session, it’s purely student/teacher for the bulk of the movie. There were no longing glances or flirtatious conversations, just her teaching and him winning her over with his mind via well-played homework assignments. I liked that Larry and Mercedes allowed themselves to become ready for each other, and didn’t jump right in just because it felt good.

Hanks is in full everyman mode as Larry. He’s smart, industrious, and has the right amount of abandon to keep us engrossed in his activities. Hanks may not be one of your big ticket directors, but we could certainly do worse than his buoyant brand of filmmaking.│Adrienne Jones

 

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