When appealing everyman LARRY CROWNE (Tom Hanks) is inexplicably fired from his job as a big box store clerk, he realizes it’s time for some meaningful change in his life. Deeply in debt and without direction, he returns to college where he befriends a group of scooter-riding students and eventually develops a real affection for his beautiful speech class instructor, MERCEDES TAINOT (Julia Roberts).
Charming and smart, LARRY CROWNE reminds us of life’s small surprises. Sometimes clouds really do have a silver lining. It’s also about the power of new beginnings like the time Larry Crowne, an ordinary man with a gentle heart, was forced to downsize his world…and ended up expanding his life.
Tom Hanks co-wrote this story and directed it. Although some of the humor fails, it is for the most part a likable film due to its likable star, the actor who voiced “Woody” in the “Toy Story” trilogy. Here Hanks plays Larry Crowne, a divorced U-Mart worker (think Wal-Mart) who is a hard worker and friendly to everyone he meets, that is until he is unceremoniously dumped by his employer. He decides to go to a community college for more education and there he meets Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who makes it clear her name is not pronounced as “tie not”. Roberts does a credible job playing a college teacher with an attitude who really has some nice traits under her abrupt manners and tough veneer. She is married to a jerk that doesn’t work and surfs the internet for porn every day. When he gets drunk and makes an insensitive comment to her in the car, she makes him drop her off. Soon she is picked up by Hanks who happens to come along on his motor scooter, and she laughs hysterically when they see her husband pulled over just down the road by the cops for a DUI.
There is a scene in which the drunken teacher and Crowne share a kiss, but he immediately tells her it is not the right thing to do and he leaves right away. Later when she goes forward with a divorce, she realizes that she can’t stop thinking about Crowne and he finds himself thinking about her all the time too. To her, he is the “gentleman” she needs in her life and for him, she is a fantastic teacher who lights up his life. The ending may be somewhat predictable but handles the promise of the future for Larry and Mercedes nicely. Some of the classroom scenes are the funniest, including scenes with Larry’s Ecnonomics teacher (George Takei of “Star Trek” fame), who keeps taking Larry’s smart phone away for texting in class.
I found the film to be funny at times and certainly the two leads are easy to watch as they both know their craft and are both Oscar winners. One of the stronger points of the movie is that it shows today’s world and economy very realistically. Crowne’s home is eventually foreclosed on and he takes a job at a local diner to help make ends meet. He moves into a new, if small, apartment. The film is about enduring hard times and making fresh starts which are nice themes. If not for several strong utterances of language, including the “F” bomb, this one would have earned our Dove Seal for ages twelve and above but, regrettably, we are unable to award our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal to the movie.