Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Larry Crowne

We are starting a new feature here at called The Second Look. For whatever reason, sometimes movies just get overlooked and lost in the crowd. Maybe it was the marketing, bad timing, release schedule, lack of support from the studio, bad reviews or bad dumb luck. It happens to a lot of good movies. Here’s my candidate, Larry Crowne for “The Second Look” which deserves your consideration.

Larry Crowne was released in the summer of 2011 and, for the most part, was quickly forgotten. You might ask yourself why a film that stars two of Hollywood’s biggest names, Tom Hanks and Julie Roberts, would ever need a second look. You’re right. How do these two not produce a sure hit?

Most industry experts expected Larry Crowne to make over $100 million at the box office; however, it managed to gross only $35 million. How in the world is that possible? Well, there are plenty of theories. The summer offers tough competition, but I think the main reason was horrible reviews. The film critics hated this film. Let me revise that. They despised Larry Crowne.

The well-renowned film critic, Roger Ebert, went as far as to state that he didn’t see a reason for why the film should exist. Every critic found fault at some level. Some called it bland and conventional. Others couldn’t understand why Tom Hanks’ character, Larry Crowne, in spite of his circumstances, could be so optimistic and cheerful. Others complained about the lack of social commentary about the current economic downturn.

Sometimes the critics just like to jump on the bandwagon. Once they smell blood in the water, they’re out for a kill. Call it the mob mentality. So with that in mind, I’m cutting against the grain. Larry Crowne is certainly not Oscar material, but it does meet the criteria for what a film should accomplish, which is to provide a reasonable level of entertainment. No big message or social issue. Just 99 minutes of solid entertainment value. The film is certainly not your conventional romantic comedy by any means; however, it is a fun and sometimes a funny look at how life can throw you a few curves.

Tom Hanks plays good guy, Larry Crowne who is just cruising through life. He works at one of those of those super stores similar to the one we call Wal-Mart. Larry is the model employee who loves his job. After 20 years in the Navy, everything in life seems to be settling in; however, that is soon to change.

Management calls Larry in for a little talk. He thinks he is going to be named Employee of the Month or perhaps promoted. He learns that because of his lack of education, he has reached his limit in the company. The message is simple. Thanks for playing Larry, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Larry’s next door neighbor Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer) gives Larry a brochure from the local community college. He suggests it’s never too late to go back to school. With little or no job prospects in site, Larry heads off to pursue a degree.

From here things get really fun for Larry as he learns to remake himself and explore a new lease on life. In a short time he meets a fellow student Talia (Gugu Mbatha Raw), who introduces him into the world of scooter culture and an eclectic group of fellow riders.

Talia helps Larry ease into college life with a new look and direction. Not only does she remake Larry but also gives Larry’s house a new face lift. It’s not like there’s a lot of things going on in the film. Larry Crowne is more about  the “spice of life” than anything else. It’s just a fun ride.

Now on to the serious part or should I say the meat and potatoes of the film. Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) is a burned out college professor who is looking for any reason to cancel class. So its up to Larry and his fellow students to renew Mercedes spirit in the educational process. Along the way, there is a slight attraction between Larry and Mercedes; however, neither one of them are looking for a relationship. Do they get together or go their separate ways?

As I said, Larry Crowne deserves a second look. I don’t have a problem with Larry remaining optimistic about life. I think it’s refreshing for a change. Sure, Larry was dealt a bad hand. He lost his job with few prospects. But he picked himself up and did something about it. Maybe that’s the message we can take away from this film.

Larry Crowne can be found on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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