For years Tom Hanks has been known as the nicest guy in Hollywood. Now with "Larry Crowne," Hanks has made the nicest movie in Hollywood.
This is a movie that almost defiantly oozes positivity to the point that it feels like a relic from a bygone era. "Larry Crowne" could have easily starred Spencer Tracy and be showing on TCM this very instant.
Hanks not only stars, but directs (only his second feature after 1996's "That Thing You Do!") and co-wrote the script with Nia Vardalos of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" fame.
Hanks permeates this movie which is probably why in spite of being light, wholesome, optimistic, predictable and more than a little bit corny, you can't help enjoying yourself. Damn you, Tom Hanks, and your overwhelmingly good-natured movie making!
Hanks plays the titular Larry Crowne, a content, middle-aged divorcee who gets the ax from his middling job at the local big box store, with the reason given being his lack of a higher education.
After failing to find another job, Larry enrolls at a local community college and finds himself in a speech class taught by the embittered Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts). We know without a doubt that she will wind up falling for Larry, especially when we witness her dissolving marriage to a self-righteous jerk (played by the brilliant Bryan Cranston).
Fortunately, this romance is not the central point of the story because if it were, "Larry Crowne" would be just another tedious and contrived romantic comedy.
The focus is instead on Larry's personal reinvention. He comes to the slow realization that his life-long pursuit of the American Dream has become cluttered and cumbersome.
Without any income and underwater on his mortgage, Larry swaps his gas-guzzling SUV for a cheap and efficient motor scooter.
At school, Larry meets fellow scooter enthusiast and whirlwind free spirit Talia (the super-cute Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who, along with her gang of scooter-riders, takes Larry under her wing, rearranges his house and equips him with a new wardrobe and outlook on life.
Larry is also able to get his personal finances in order thanks to his Econ 101 course taught by the stellar George Takei.
Only the most brutally cynical will be able to roll their eyes and dismiss "Larry Crowne" because in spite of its overtly cheery point of view, Hanks never once abandons reality in favor of star-crossed outcomes or unnecessary, emotional twists and turns.
We often lose track of how much of life is dependent upon our outlook. Bad things will most assuredly happen to good people and no one escapes the fickle finger of fate. But as "Larry Crowne" happily reminds us, we do have a hand to play in our ultimate destiny and whether we like it or not, life is what we make it.
"Larry Crowne" is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content.
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