Who's In It: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston, Wilmer Valderrama, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, George Takei, Rob Riggle, Rita Wilson,
The Basics: Larry Crowne (Hanks) is just like you and me, except waaaay more virtuous. He's a sweetheart and full of enthusiasm for work and his fellow human beings. But, in spite of all that, he gets canned from his retail job (because he lacks a college degree) and is forced to reevaluate his recently divorced life. He enrolls in college, joins a scooter gang, and falls in love with his speech teacher Mercedes (Roberts). Not bad for one school year.
What's The Deal: This is a sweet movie. It's so sweet, in fact, that it made me realize how cynical I've gotten over time. I really wanted to be in love with it, but alas, I found myself nitpicking on small plot devices instead of sighing happily. Ultimately, it's too one-dimensional to put on my "Best Romantic Comedies" list; even though it's a nice departure from the visual assault and soullessness we experience in most modern films, the writing isn’t necessarily any better. What went wrong? Most of the time I can be tricked into getting all goosepimply during a film like this, then later the cocoon of magic dissipates and I see what a crapfest it was. Sometimes I don't care, but this time, I wasn't even fooled in the moment. No cocoon of magic here.
Petty Woman: Julia Roberts plays Mercedes Tainot, an alcoholic professor who hates her job and home life. Ironically, she says that her class is about teaching students to care, but she shows no signs of being able to do that herself. Her frosty cocktail glass is positioned firmly between her and her deadbeat husband (Cranston), wedged right up against his love of Internet porn. They're growing farther apart. And her students aren't any better, so Mercedes is downward spiraling fast. She has no redeeming qualities to sympathize with. In fact, she’s easily blamed for her own problems. Why in the world would Larry Crowne, the world's nicest guy with a sassy scarf on, like her? It must have been the smile. Or perhaps all the shirtdresses.
All Things Must Pass (Spoilers): This movie tackles some pretty big issues then dismisses them without any fanfare. Larry lost his job, bought a scooter, and took a speech class. Talia (Mbatha-Raw) drops out of school but opens a thrift store. Mercedes skulks around after she makes out with Larry, thinking that he's seeing Talia and telling everyone about their indiscretions, but it's solved with one sentence from Talia. It’s nice when a movie expresses the idea that things always work out in real life, even when they get really rotten for a while, but this movie felt more like it was skirting the issue than making a philosophical statement.
Everything Must Crowne: This movie felt like the kinder, gentler remake of the Will Farrell film Everything Must Go. They are both divorcees (although with Larry, I have no idea why anyone would leave him, unless they were just a little bored by his haircut). Both men befriended someone who changed their outlook (and in Larry's case, his clothes), and both were dealing with cranky women who came around eventually. And don't forget the inclusion of yard sales--of course, Everything Must Go had a much more realistic representation of city ordinances. Do you see why there's no cocoon of magic here? I never considered city laws watching Shop Around the Corner.