For a movie called Larry Crowne, it sure is tough to get a solid read on the character of Larry Crowne. Directed, co-written by, and starring Tom Hanks in that title role, the film seems to want to be some kind of post-recessional pick-me-up, an “It Gets Better” video for the struggling, aging-out American middle-class. And with its eager-to-please congeniality, it almost works, but with a pacing that is at once comfortably assured and frustratingly slack, like holding exactly to the speed limit on a stretch of open road, Larry Crowne never quite comes to life.
As the film opens, Larry seems content with his lot in life—at least, in the few short moments he is on-screen before being abruptly fired for lacking a college education from his job at U-Mart, a big-box store chain with the sneakily obtuse corporate culture of Walmart and the red-shirt/khaki-pants dress code of Target. This starts Larry off on a process of personal reinvention that finds him enrolling in community college as a way to better arm himself for the next job, becoming a motor-scooter enthusiast, and almost inadvertently wooing his age-appropriate teacher (Julia Roberts).
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