Not many movies are made for guys like me, ones who are entering into the half-century club. As a reviewer, I usually need to use my memories of adolescent or twenty-something life to relate to most of what is playing on the big screen. Then along comes Larry Crowne, a wispy little tale co-written by it’s director and star, Tom Hanks, and his wife Rita Wilson’s friend Nia Vardolas who rocketed to fame in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The film’s title identifies the principal character. Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is an eager achiever at the local UMart (substitute “Wal” for the “U” and you get the idea). He’s running out of fingers to count his “Employee of the Month” awards, which he well deserves for his endless scuttling about the aisles helping shoppers with purchases and vomiting children. However, when Larry is paged to the employee break room, his assumption of yet another accolade is soon replaced with shock and sadness. Larry is fired.
It turns out UMart has a new policy requiring workers to have a college degree before they can be considered for promotion. That means competent but uneducated guys like Larry can’t climb the company ladder. Barred from any hope of progression, Larry has reached a dead end. This strange scenario puts the protagonist in the perfect rough spot the screenplay needs. Divorced and living in an increasingly cluttered bungalow in a middle class neighborhood, Larry heeds the advice of his neighbor (Cedric the Entertainer) and returns to school.
Shortly thereafter the bewildered middle-ager begins attending a slate of courses. Most notably his schedule includes an entry-level economics class instructed by a deadpan professor (hilariously played by George Takei) and a public speaking course taught by Mrs. Tainot (Julia Roberts). He also gets caught up in extra-curricular activities and joins a gang of scooter enthusiasts led by an effervescent young lady (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who offers Larry some style tips to help him become a little more current.
Freshly clothed, coiffured and with his house de-cluttered, thanks to help from his two-wheeling friends, Larry has a new lease on life. And his freshly minted confidence does not go unnoticed by Mrs. Tainot. In the throws of a midlife crisis herself, the discouraged woman has reached the end of her rope in a marriage to an Internet porn addict.
Relative to most PG-13 offerings, Larry Crowne has few concerns, although parents arent likely to find their teens begging to see a romantic comedy featuring "old people anyway. Some shots of bikini-clad women on a computer screen, a rude term for women’s breasts and a scene where a married woman passionately kisses another man make up the sexual content. A few profanities and a sexual expletive are included in the script. And the use of a tobacco pipe is depicted in a couple of scenes.
Along with being entertaining, this film offers positive messages about adult education and making the best of a difficult situation. As well it tackles the serious nature of pornography and the harm it inflicts on a marriage. Definitely sentimental and sometimes a tad cheesy, Larry Crowne oozes with charm and romantic fun, giving it the potential of being another big fat wedding. Now the movie marketers just need to convince the fifty-plus crowd that there is a reason to go to the theater.