By Eleanor Ringel Cater
I’m afraid I am part of the demographic who is supposed to be thrilled that Hollywood has tossed me a bone this summer.
To wit: the “adult” romantic comedy, “Larry Crowne,” starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
Lord. Gimme “Transformers 3” any day.
Based on an idea by Hanks and co-scripted by Nia Vardalos, star/writer of the inexpicable mega-hit, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (which Hanks produced), “Larry Crowne” could be subtitled, “My Big Fat Mid-Life Crisis.”
Larry (Hanks, who also directed) is downsized from his job at U-Mart (read Wal-Mart or Target or whatever) and told the reason is, he lacks a college diploma.
See, he was to busy SERVING OUR COUNTRY in the Navy to bother with academia. So, he enrolls in a community college where his speech teacher is a very sour Mercedes Tainot (Roberts) and his fellow students are an adorable mix of…oh, I’m too bummed to even characterize them. Let’s just say, if this sounds like a TV sitcom, it should, because it already is a TV sitcom called “Community.”
In a plot twist straight out of a 1961 episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (I’m not kidding; saw it on an oldies channel the other night), the kids bond with Larry to the point of inviting him and his new motorscooter (Bye, bye gas-guzzling SUV) to ride with them. You know, be a part of the gang…
Of course, this is all window dressing for a tepid almost-romance between the divorced Larry and the unhappily married Mercedes.
It’s frankly painful to watch two charming, talented pros waste their time in something like this. And it’s doubly painful to realize that, to the under-40s running Hollywood, this is what they think would appeal to anyone old enough to remember where they were when JFK was shot. To these monstrous baby moguls with their smart phones and cosmetically enhanced hot bods, “Lawrence Welk” and “M*A*S*H” are interchangeable.
But then, “Larry Crowne” essentially begins and ends with Hanks and he’s old enough to know the difference. What I’m afraid of is, he’s been so swallowed up by Hollywood, he may have forgotten that Welk’s pure-corn soap bubbles are nothing like, say, Mary Tyler Moore in Capri pants.
Oh, one last thought. The Roberts character is actually a pretty complex role — like a toned-down “Bad Teacher.” I almost wish Hanks would go for a sequel and, this time, concentrate on his co-star’s anger, sorrow and incipient drinking problem.
Now, there’s a movie for grown-ups.