Rating: 2.5 out of 5
A painfully squishy centre completely undoes this rom-com, although it's difficult to know what might have made it less goofy. The diminished dual star-wattage of Hanks and Roberts just about makes it watchable.
After being sacked for his lack of a degree, Larry (Hanks) enrols in a community college. There isn't much else going on in his life, so he dives into his studies: Mercedes (Roberts) teaches speech, while Dr Matsutani (Takei) teaches economics. When Larry downsizes to a scooter to save money, he befriends the cool scooter-riding Talia (Mbatha-Raw), who gives him a style makeover. He also joins her biker gang, led by her boyfriend Gordo (Valderrama). Meanwhile, Mercedes is struggling with her marriage to Dean (Cranston). So maybe she and Larry can help each other outside the classroom as well.
It's extremely obvious where this is going, so of course the screenplay has to throw a series of implausible obstacles in the way of our protagonists. The main thing here is jealousy, as Gordo gets hot and bothered about the attention Talia gives to Larry, while Mercedes shoots annoyed glances at Talia for the same reason. Of course, we know better, so it's all pretty toothless. And even less convincing is Mercedes' marriage trouble, caused because Dean isn't as high-achieving as she'd like him to be, and he also looks at swimsuit models on the internet (which she calls "porn").
And while Hanks and Roberts play everything with game faces, the cast around them actually have moments when they add a bit more spark to the film. Henson and Cedric are enjoyable as Larry's offbeat neighbours and Takei's grinning, self-pleased professor is hilarious. On the other hand, Mercedes' students aren't much more than a collection of amusing cliches. Even the few with subplots don't have much to do.
In other words, the whole film feels half-baked. It's efficiently directed and assembled, with likeable acting and a warmly charming tone that sometimes drifts into corny sentimentality and glib moralising. But the real problem is that the film seems to be saying that a degree is the solution to the current recession. Sadly, thousands of graduates can quickly prove this wrong.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st July 2011
Box Office USA: $35.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $36.2M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Vendome Pictures, Universal Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Fresh: 67 Rotten: 123
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Tom Hanks
Starring: Tom Hanks as Larry Crowne, Julia Roberts as Mercedes Tainot, Bryan Cranston as Dean Tainot, Cedric the Entertainer as Lamar, Pam Grier as Frances, Taraji P. Henson as B'Ella, George Takei as Dr. Matsutani, Nia Vardalos as Map Genie, Sarah Mahoney as Samantha, Roxana Ortega as Alvarez, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Talia