Tom Hanks wrote, produced, directed and stars as LARRY CROWNE, a fifty-year-old single man fired from U-Mart for his lack of a college education. Faced with no possibility of a full-time job, he enrolls in college where he meets a cast of characters that will change his life including falling for his teacher played by Julia Roberts.  

LARRY CROWNE could've easily turned into a pity-party for the middle-aged unemployed Larry Crowne but Tom Hanks, in his usual charming presence, finds a way to tell an uplifting story about reinventing yourself in times of hardship. Although he conceived the story years before the recession hit, the film is very timely, but never once does the film address it directly. The subtely of the movie is what makes this a great film to watch if you're looking for a little slice of life with real characters.  One might expect a downer but you won't find it here.  The obvious message is when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

The term movie magic is usually reserved for special effects-heavy films but the real magic of LARRY CROWNE is seeing true-to-life characters and the diversity of the cast. While most Hollywood films bother with one token minority, Hanks made a conscious effort to cast racially-diverse actors. He hand-picked Cedric The Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson (Hustle & Flow), Pam Grier, Wilmer Valderrama, Selena Gomez's Disney Channel mom Maria Canals-Barrera, George Takei (Star Trek) and the comedy trio Culture Clash. The film also features an interracial couple with Valderrama's character and his girlfriend played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Undercover).

The multi-generational and racially diverse faces in LARRY CROWNE is not something you see often.  It's very refreshing.  While some movie-goers could care less about the look of the cast, it's a rarity in Hollywood films that should be appreciated. Thanks Tom Hanks.

Cedric the Entertainer, Tom Hanks, Taraji P. Henson in LARRY CROWNE

The romance between Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts' character Mercedes is a realistic grown-up relationship. No one is goo-goo-gaga in love in this film. It happens naturally and over time. Larry doesn't think of her in a romantic way until Mercedes kisses him during a drunken stupor. That opens up the possibility of love that evolves slowly with her growing admiration of Larry Crowne.

Some may say there was a lack of chemistry between Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, however, it's a mutual attraction that grows over the course of the film and doesn't involve a lot of drama as with most love stories. It's a rather boring love story compared to the dramas of young love or unrequited desire but that's not the focus of the story anyway (trailer is misleading). Rather it's a small part of the new possibilities Larry Crowne is coming into.

Tom Hanks never disappoints as an actor but his character was a bit too nice and upbeat. Larry doesn't have many flaws which makes his character drama-less but you do care what will happen to him as he faces the challenge of reinventing himself emotionally and financially - and that's what drives the film.

Julia Roberts, on the other hand, is quite the opposite with many flaws and "poor me" attitude. As the boozing teacher, Julia Roberts' Mercedes is unlikeable in the beginning which is a rarity for a Julia Roberts' film. Julia Roberts' pulls off playing miserable and indifferent to her students. Roberts' character actually has more of a transformation than Larry.  

The supporting cast were all equally funny including Cedric the Entertainer as Larry Crowne's neighbor obsessed with yard sales and Wilmer Valderrama as a college student whose girlfriend Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Rawis) becomes obsessed with making over Larry. Wilmer gives his best performance to-date in LARRY CROWNE with merely his looks and gestures. As the jealous but harmless boyfriend, Wilmer is comedic when he stares down Larry Crowne. The moped riding tough guy also has some of the best lines in the movie. Star Trek's George Takei plays an economics college professor, and with that iconic deep voice, Takei was both scary and hilarious on purpose.  

Co-written by My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos and Tom Hanks, the film lacked some drama as there are no real villains or antagonists in this film (except perhaps the banking institutions) but Tom Hanks' point of the film is to show that a person's' real enemy can be themselves if they have poor attitudes as showcased in Julia Roberts' character.  That is often the case in real life - we are our own worst enemies.

You have to admire Tom Hanks for staying away from the formulaic and contrived Hollywood-style films with LARRY CROWNE. Of course having complete control of the film as the writer, producer, and director helped -- all which he did well.

LARRY CROWNE should be liked because its different. The masses always want more of the same and that's a shame. Tom Hanks delivers an entertaining and cute film that may inspire someone affected by the current recession. And inspiration is a feeling you rarely get out of a fictional movie.

LARRY CROWNE is now playing in movie theaters.


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