During the midst of the recession, hard-working Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is laid off from his retail position because a lack of college education means he cannot move up any further in the company ladder. In response, Larry decides to enroll in the local community college in order to get the education that he never received. He signs up for a public speaking course, in the hopes of improving his communication skills in his journey to become a new person. The overally depressed Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) is Larry's professor, and is stuck in a bad marriage (with an under-used Bryan Cranston), as well as a teaching rut. While Larry is running around with a new "scooter" crowd, and Mercedes is drinking herself under a table, the two began to grow affectionate for one another. And in a world of uncertainty, they become exactly what each other needs in order to reinvent themselves and start a wonderful new life.
Larry Crowne smartly relies on the talent and magnetism of its two stars and its large supporting cast to elevate its material, and Hanks and Roberts do not fail to play their characters to a tee, and effortlessly come off as charming . It doesn't hurt that the two are such good friends in real life, as their chemistry is evident from the first day of class. But they do not have to carry the weight alone, with tons of small, yet worthy performances from a talented cast of characters including Bryan Cranston, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Rita Wilson, Wilmer Valderrama, George Takei, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
The problem with Larry Crowne, besides its under-use of its supporting characters, and their lack of individual characterization, is the end-game. The premise itself is a little ridiculous. I mean seriously, just because a man can't go further up the corporate ladder doesn't mean he would automatically be fired from his current position. Then, while it has some great scenes, and some wonderfull tender moments, the romance takes a back-seat to Larry's reinvention, and in the end, neither gets the full treatment it deserves, and Nia Vardalos and Hanks could have done ten minutes more to either clear up some remaining loose ends, or at least make the budding romance a little more believable.
However, despite its flaws, Larry Crowne somehow works. While it can be a little over schmaltzy, utilizes too many cliches, and flubs its ending, the chemistry and the humor that it does exude, mainly from Hanks and Roberts, somehow makes it overcome many of its flaws, to become an enjoyable experience. It is a nice summer movie that is perfect for one of those hazy afternoons, where you don't want to think to much, but simply want to sit back and enjoy a nice, entertaining story. In the end I laughed, I smiled, and I left feeling fuzzy like after eating a nice, comforting meal. If that is what you are looking for then Larry Crowne is your movie, just don't expect too much from it.
Oscar Potential: None