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Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is a happy, efficient but lowly team member at UMart where he's worked since his time in the Navy - until he is made redundant for not having gone to college and thus ineligible for promotion. Larry heads to his local college in a hope to start over and joins an economics course under Dr Matsutani (George Takei) and a public-speaking class with teacher Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts). He meets some of the younger students and one of them, the pretty scooter riding Celestia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) takes him under his wing in an effort to make him more cool. But it's the unhappily married Miss Tainot who needs someone to take her under their wing ...

Review by Louise Keller:
An immensely likeable film, this uplifting rom com about turning life around has a whole lot of things going for it. To begin with, there is Tom Hanks, who has directed, produced and co-written the script with My Big Fat Wedding's Nia Vardalos. Hanks has always had a knack for finding the right leading lady, and he and Julia Roberts are perfect together, after their initial pairing in Charlie Wilson's War. It's a smart script that concentrates on establishing character and creating an interesting and mostly tangible reality to which we can relate. That's why we laugh, nod knowingly and are right there with the characters as they learn how to be open - to change, to new ideas and to love.

When we first meet Hanks' Larry Crowne, he is an earnest, hardworking employee of the retail store UMart, reaping in consecutive Employee of the Month awards for his conscientiousness. Retrenched and alone, Larry tackles his problems head on. If it was the fact he did not have a college education that made him vulnerable and lose his job, he decides it is a college education that he is going to get. This class will change your life, the College Dean tells him as he enrolls in a Speech and Communications course, but at that moment, he does not imagine that it really will.

Hanks is utterly convincing as the everyman whose life needs remoulding, going from earnest to self-assured in a journey comprising a series of gently hilarious steps. Larry is open to everything - from getting a (fuel-economical) scooter, letting fellow-student (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) call him Lance, having his house feng shui-ed and his image updated. (No more tucked in polo shirts, dorky haircuts or steel-rimmed glasses!)

Roberts has fun with Larry's sour teacher Mercedes Tainot, who almost dares her students to care enough to attend and participate in her class. She clearly doesn't care for or about anything, beginning with her deadbeat, lazy blogger of a husband who porn surfs most of the time. The scene when Larry offers the tipsy, irate Mrs Tainot (fresh from a major domestic row) a ride home on the back of his scooter is one of the film's best.

All the characters play their part in Larry's journey, including Cedric the Entertainer's entertaining Lamar, the neighbour who haggles expertly at the garage sale that is a permanent fixture at his house, Gugu Mbatha-Raw's delightful Talia who invites Larry to join their scooter gang, and George Takei's authoritarian economics lecturer Ed Matsutani who has an aversion to mobile phones. There is no prize for guessing which direction the story takes; the pleasure is how it gets there. I loved Larry Crowne. It's one of those easy-to-watch films that make life somehow seem brighter.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The effects of the global financial crisis on America's workforce has spawned several movies (eg Up in the Air, The Company Men) and Larry Crowne joins the list, taking a working class employee's point of view. Larry (Tom Hanks) appears to be a retail gofer at UMart - we're never quite sure what he does on the floor except tidy up, but he seems like a decent chap. He's been named employee of the month nine times, when he's told he's fired, using the perverted logic that his lack of a formal education makes him ineligible for promotion, which is against company policy.

The scene of his dismissal strikes a false note, with his smartass bosses unexpectedly and needlessly ridiculing his 20 years in the Navy as a cook. The filmmakers seem to be trying to paint these low level executives the baddies as symbols of corporate bastardry.

Larry heads for lonely home (he's divorced, of course). But his neighbour, Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer) who runs a permanent garage sale on his front lawn, telling him about a college he should attend.

Stepping back into college for a mature man is a brave move, but instead of ridicule, Larry finds unexpected friendship from sassy young Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a member of a scooter gang. That's because Larry has bought a petrol-saving scooter from Lamar. Later we see that Larry has kept his gas-guzzler, instead of cashing it in, which is odd given he had lost his job and had no reserves.

Larry's teacher is Miss Tainot, who we see having trouble with a no hoper husband, whom she leaves after a particularly unpleasant exchange in the car. Like so much else in the screenplay, this feels like another manipulative device - not because it's implausible but because it's badly written.

Larry's natural smarts come out in the economics class and he gets Miss Tainot's attention as well. There are some endearing scenes and some fun moments, but the screenplay doesn't feel developed; we are never really engaged with either the budding romantic feelings between the leads, nor do their individual emotional journeys register with us. The film lacks that spark of romantic passion that should ignite a rom-com and the neatness of the structure makes it a tad dull.
Published first in the Sun-Herald

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(US, 2011)

CAST: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wilmer Valderrama, Rami Malek, Pam Grier, Taraji P. Hanson, Jon Seda, Nia Vardalos, Bryan Cranston

PRODUCER: Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman


SCRIPT: Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot

EDITOR: Alan Cody

MUSIC: James Newton Howard


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes



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