I remember, sometime last year, my school principal, whose face is normally beat red for one reason or another, walked out of the art room during one of my classes, almost jauntily skipping. My friends and I were working on an art project, all of us scattered with our utensils on the floor, and sprawled every which way to get the best angle for our beautiful work. Her walked past us, and smirked. A very brief, irreverent conversation was started up between the four or so of us and him, and when he finally had to make his departure, he said something to the effect of “Well, I got to be hip-to-the-groove!” As he left, giddily strutting down the hall, my friends and I all looked at each other, barely containing our laughter. My principal is under the delusion that he is cool and up to date. And so is Tom Hanks’ new movie Larry Crowne.
Much like my principal, Larry Crowne comes off across like a baby boomer desperately trying to work his new iPhone. He thinks he’s doing it right, but you just cringe from how hard he’s trying. It’s almost painful. Tom Hanks, however, is a much more affable type of guy. IN general, he’s just as charming as one could hope, and he has a demeanor on the screen, a special kind of aura no matter what the character, that lightens your heart. My favorite role of his is probably Viktor Navorsky in the much underrated and light-as-air The Terminal. The film embodies the charming, almost naïve yet knowing kindness that Hanks brings to the screen. However, The Terminal was made about ten years ago. Which means that Hanks is ten years older.
Larry Crowne is essentially an AARP driven romantic comedy. Hanks, who has worked diligently at a Wal-Mart-esque super store, is the amiable Employee of However Long He’ll Work There. His superiors, however, take note of his lack of college education and, when the economy starts sliding, they begin cutting off the people who are least “qualified”. But reflection on contemporary economic times this is not. It’s more of a dullish middle age story about a middle age guy who falls for a pretty middle age woman, but yet tries to stay cool all the while. And what a hard job that is.
Directed and written by Hanks, it’s not that the movie is particularly lazy. It’s just blah. It’s not particularly interesting or compelling and its charm is limited to how much of Hanks acting older you can handle. See Hanks texting on his flip phone with a twenty something at his new community college. See Julia Robert being bored at her job as a community college teacher. See two baby boomers, however attractive they are, playing “why, yes, we are old enough to be your grandparents” and falling for each other. It’s not really cute because it’s annoying and cringe worthy. The lingo the people use is definitely unrealistic and scarily exaggerated. The biker gang that Hanks’ Crowne joins is a scooter gang. Really? It’s really nice that he has friends and such, but it’s such a laughable scenario and the way that it’s handled isn’t convincing.
Julia Roberts is fine. Her airy presence, her big smile, all add a little something. Her performance, though, doesn’t keep the movie from being dull. Trapped in a marriage with a slacker (Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad) who is a blogger and regularly watches porn. Thus she has an excuse to canoodle with Hanks. Which is fine. Not interesting, but fine.
This movie screams “fine” all over, and that’s the problem. With a name like Tom Hanks, you expect something quirky, not annoying; something cute and fun, not cringe worthy and kinda wacky. It is, as I said before, the AARP of romantic comedies. But it’s not a good one, because while maintaining that status, it tries desperately to reach a slightly younger age group. If anything, it’s just as “hip-to-the-groove” as my principal. Which is barely at all.