Don’t. It’s a trap.
“Larry Crowne,” starring the normally charming and reliable Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, is a supposed self-reinvention/ romantic comedy with such clunky dialogue and so little genuine emotion that even the Lifetime channel would reject it for not being up to their standards. As far as I can tell, the script was cobbled together from a collection of mediocre sitcoms from the ‘80s and ‘90s, mixed in with a little non-ironic “Leave it to Beaver,” then played as if every word out of the actors’ mouths must be spoken in complete seriousness. The dialogue is clunky, the tones are off, and no one believes a single word they’re saying.
As the titular character, Tom Hanks is breathtakingly naive despite having apparently spent several decades in the Navy. As you know from the promos he loses his job and goes back to community college, as if a degree is a magic bullet that would keep a person from getting laid off these days (a myth that the movie itself dispels near the end).
In order to communicate that naivete, Hanks ruthlessly crushes whatever low-key charisma that has made him watchable for so many other movies to transform into the Beav’s down-on-his luck uncle suddenly transported into the 21 century (though not long enough to figure out how to turn his phone on silent when Spunky-cute Cardboard Character #1 insists on texting him during class). When Larry finds his feet in the last half that charisma slowly starts to emerge again, but not fast enough to save anything that’s happening onscreen.
Julia Roberts ... well, she’s just ticked off (possibly at the script). Her character is angry, sad, and either drunk or hungover for a good portion of the movie, and except for a generically loutish husband and a few lines about how she’s “not making a difference” anymore, we never really get a sense as to why. She and Hanks’ character apparently fall in love at some point, but that mostly consists of one deeply embarrassing-to-watch kiss (and one decent one at the end), a few goofy looks from Hanks, and Julia Roberts random jealousy over Spunky-cute Cardboard Character #1, despite the fact that her sum total of interest in Hanks’ character before then was the word “interesting.”
Add to that a “gang” made of scooter-driving hipsters who should really stop taking themselves so seriously and head over to the parody movie where they belong, Bryan Cranston being totally wasted as the loutish husband who is never even allowed to be interestingly loutish (though he tries — seeing him have to spend the night in prison with his cheesecake would have resulted in an infinitely better movie), and you’re left with a film that caused me to laugh only in horrified disbelief.
The only reason I stayed through the whole thing was to try to figure out how everything had gone so completely wrong (I never did) and on the off chance that George Takei would do his evil laugh again. (He and Rita Wilson’s insanely chipper bank employee could also maybe have done an interesting movie together. Please, someone write one where Takei has to take out a loan in order to complete his plans for world domination.)
Near the end of the movie, in a moment that was probably supposed to be meaningful, a bit of quality writing suddenly emerges in the form of a George Bernard Shaw quote: “A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry.”
Clearly, he was warning us about “Larry Crowne.”