Blu-ray Review: LARRY CROWNE

Tom Hanks has earned his reputation as an all-around nice guy and one of the most likeable actors in Hollywood. Hanks brings every ounce of that likeability for Larry Crowne, which marks his second film as a director following his debut behind the camera with 1996’s That Thing You Do!

Hanks stars as the titular Larry Crowne, a mid-level employee for U-Mart, a big-box retailer resembling Target. Larry enlisted in the Navy straight out of high school and never went to college. This lack of higher education is cited as the primary reason for his lack of promotion into upper management. Since he can no longer advance any further, U-Mart executives decide to fire him despite years of exemplar service.

Larry finds himself in an all too familiar situation as a divorced, middle-aged man who is now unemployed and saddled with a mortgage he can no longer afford. Left with few options, Larry decides to enroll in community college. Thus begins a series of life-changing events for our affable protagonist.

First, he trades in his gas-guzzling SUV for a sporty scooter and befriends the cute and free-spirited Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who renames him “Lance Corona” and recruits him into her scooter gang. She even gives Larry a makeover, giving him a new hairdo and ditching his dorky polo shirts for a hip leather jacket. Next, Larry signs up for a morning class on informal speaking taught by the disillusioned Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts). Not only has she lost her passion for academia, but she also deals with a husband (Bryan Cranston), who considers posting on internet message boards as creating a beachhead in new media. He also surfs for porn, but since this is a PG-13 movie, the women are fully clothed.

In addition to directing, producing, and starring in Larry Crowne, Tom Hanks co-wrote the script with Nia Vardalos, whose My Big Fat Greek Wedding was championed by Hanks and wife Rita Wilson. Vardalos has yet to recapture the same success and the middling response to the clichéd Larry Crowne won’t change that. The way in which the film offers sitcom solutions to complex issues borders on condescension. Is a degree from a community college really going to protect someone from the economic downturn? I know people with Master’s degrees who are still having a rough time in the job market. How does Larry Crowne still manage to stay afloat in Los Angeles while working as a part-time short order cook? Sometimes Crowne comes off more as a man going through a mid-life crisis when he’s wearing a leather jacket and wallet chain.

Larry Crowne was released the same weekend as Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It certainly serves its purpose as counter-programming to the hordes of loud, effects heavy blockbusters. Hanks and Roberts (who gets more beautiful with age) have a winning chemistry together and there are some fun performances from Taraji P. Henson and Rami Malek as an annoyingly dim classmate. Without a doubt, the best thing in the movie is George Takei as an eccentric economics professor. The boisterous Takei steals every one of his scenes. I wouldn’t want to see Larry Crowne 2, but I’d readily shell out twelve bucks to see a spin-off starring the former Mr. Sulu.

Video/Audio: 8
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The Larry Crowne Blu-Ray features a sterling transfer. Colors are vibrant and displayed right away with the red T-shirt of Larry’s uniform. Details are excellently rendered.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.The sound stays mainly with the front channels with dialogue coming in crisp and clear.

Extras: 2
The Making of Larry Crowne (11:23) is the standard EPK look at the film’s production with brief interviews from the cast and crew.

Fun on Set (10:44) is a collection of clips of the crew members goofing around. Highlights include Hanks attempting to drive an electric shopping cart and the crew learning how to knit to surprise Julia Roberts.

Finally, the Blu-Ray includes eight minutes of deleted scenes.

Film Value: 4
It’s obvious Larry Crowne was meant as a soothing salve on the gaping wounds caused by the financial collapse with Hanks serving as a modern day Frank Capra or Preston Sturges. Sadly, Hanks is unable to capture the heart and wit of those cinematic masters. It is simply populist pabulum with a tone as affable and easy-going as its leading man.

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