Let’s admit it, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are some of the best American actors in the business, hands down. In various ways, they are some of the most likable. I mean, who can hate Forrest Gump personified, or Everyman? And Julia with those angular looks and funky smile and laugh and ability to play a whole variety of roles is something to behold. She is never dull and boring.
So when I heard they were doing a movie together and that Hanks directed and co-wrote the movie, I thought ‘Right, I’ve gotta see that one.’ Then came the initial reviews. The majority of the critics, even some of the critics I think are worth listening to, were not happy. Some of them even hated it. Besides being too short ( a svelte 1 hour and 38 minutes)…..it was, well, just too normal, too likable, too safe…… and no sex, or violence or CG or 3D either. Who would go see that? Unfortunately, not enough people. It’s now in the B and discount theaters after being out only a month. So what went wrong?
1) Problem Number One—- It really is too short. It needs more time for these interesting characters to fully develop. Hanks plays Larry Crowne a 50 something ex-Navy guy who, despite being employee of the month umpteen times, is let go by U Mart (an hommage to Wal Mart no doubt). Julia plays Mercedes Tainot a community college speech teacher, who is less than enthralled with her job or students, not to mention her dead-beat, no job porn surfing jerk of a husband. And then there is Cedric the Entertainer playing Larry’s neighbor whose apparent job is holding a continual yard sale. It happens all the time. And guess what—- Sulu, yes that Sulu takes a comic turn as an Econ professor (you heard me right) which in itself is a hoot. There are some other interesting characters who are Larry’s much younger fellow students at the school, and fellow scooter riders (Scooters Rule and boy do they save gas!). There are lots of interesting characters and too little time for them to do their thing. Mr. Hanks we wanted more. In this case more is more!
2) Problem Number Two– The timing of the release of this romantic comedy could not have been worse. It was put up against a) the Marvel films and b) Voldemort in 3D and c) the Transformer. See the next problem.
3) Problem Number Three—- Apparently movie going Americans get frontal lobotomies somewhere around May 1, and the frontal lobe does not grow back until the Fall. During that time, expect mindless popcorn movies majoring in special effects and violence, but short on plot, actual acting, and the basic essentials of good story telling. Who cares since the popcorn is good, and it was ‘fun’….. (Memo to American audiences– does mind-numbing violence really deserve the label ‘fun’? Methinks not). Larry Crowne is a movie with heart, and that sucker was squashed flat by the trampling feet of people racing to see the Transformers. Sigh……
The saddest part about this likable little romantic comedy is that its dismal performance at the box office will only mean that we will continue to have less and less viable, normal, family friendly, films in the theaters, especially in the summers—- sex and violence and CG sells. And we are the stupid buyers.
So Larry gets an education, and along the way gets a life, and in the end, gets the girl. It is so refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t include the stupidity of people hopping into the sack immediately after the first passionate kiss. This movie is actually about a slow simmering romance, not about ‘an afternoon delight’. So oddly enough, this movie was an afternoon delight for me, even though it did not include that sort of afternoon delight, if you catch my drift. Finally, as a teacher, I enjoyed this story about going back to school to better yourself after 50 and getting an unexpected education along the way as well.
So here’s my plea—- Mr. Hanks, keep making these sorts of films, please!!! If you need funding, those of us who love normal movies with likable characters we can actually relate to, will gladly ante up some coin for the next one. After all, I only paid $1.50 to see this one. You can have the other $5.00 I would have paid if this hadn’t left the first run theaters at warp speed.