Transformers 3 may have taken up screens 1-10 at your local multiplex, but fear not weary movie-goers, there are quieter movies to endure or enjoy depending on your preferences. After stumbling half-deaf, half-dead from a searing headache induced by Michael Bay’s robots and cars porn, I was in the mood for something a bit gentler. Nothing mentally challenging or forcing my eyes to spend hours focusing on rapidly moving objects.
Please, Hollywood, give me a break before your next roundhouse kick to my face.
To my surprise, that break came in the form of Larry Crowne, a movie, I admittedly knew nothing about in a summer streaming with sequels. What a pleasant, easy-going experience that was. Tom Hanks both directs and stars in this romantic comedy. A tricky feat, but one that proves to be decently executed. Hanks co-teamed with everyone’s favorite Greek, Nia Vardalos, for the screenplay, and its just as adorably cute as one would expect for a rerun on Oxygen.
Tom Hanks plays the titular Larry Crowne, a Jimmy Stewart-esque everyman in a Target team member’s uniform. Just like many good ol’ plain folk these days, Crowne is given the pink slip after years of employment. The reason is Crowne’s lack of a college degree will forever stick him on the sales floor, something management just can’t have. (Which is quite ironic seeing as the recent Wal-Mart case made it clear that big-box retailers don’t care that employees never move up the corporate ladder.) But as any career counselor will tell you, it’s hard out there, and thus Larry finds no magical back-up job. His only option is to use his Vet benefits to get him through community college.
Oh, wait. Did that sound familiar to you?
Okay, so it’s a much milder version of the Joel McHale TV smart ass, but you get the picture. Enter in a quirky ensemble of young adults that also includes a manic pixie dream girl named Talia, and the romcom gets a little stale. Although bright and headstrong, Talia is only a shallow character meant to doll up Tom Hanks in scarves and include him as a part of her hipster moped gang. After all, the real prize for Larry is the affections of Mercy Tainot, his borderline alcoholic speech teacher played by Julia Roberts. She’s an exasperated woman at the end of her marriage rope after her husband downloads one too many bikini babe picture off of “teh internets.” So if you haven’t figured it out by the poster, George Bailey Larry Crowne and Prof. Tainot have a few extra-curricular activities they enjoy together, in the most respectful and button-down way I’ve possibly ever seen outside of the Hallmark Channel.
But it’s filled with comedic cameos that include Rob Riggle, Rita Wilson, Wilmer Valderrama, and the amazing George Takei in there to spice up the time-worn tale. And an even greater surprise was the use of jokes, like old fashioned puns and sarcasm. Man, I missed those like Mrs. Tainot misses her rum. Heaven forbid someone pay any attention to what characters actually say, but when some writers do: God bless us, everyone of us.
But don’t let me talk up such praise as to make you think it’s the next When Harry Met Sally. It’s not, and like the another Tom Hanks cannon, You Got Mail, this gem will most likely not stand the test of time. How many more years of “tough times” and hipster subculture will we have to survive? I hope not much longer, but for the here and now, I see no harm in indulging in a little guilty pleasure like Larry Crowne. It’s harmless and safe enough to take your grandmother to and kitschy enough to spend a girl’s night out while men/non-romcom fans satisfy their epic toy battles next door.