Published Jun 30, 2011In the children's sycophant allegory The Emperor's New Clothes, the titular Emperor paraded around his loyal subjects in the buff, proud of his invisible, non-existent new threads, confident only because every one of his minions parroted back only what they thought he wanted to hear. I get the impression that in the case of Larry Crowne, Tom Hanks is the emperor and this movie (which he wrote, directed and starred in) is his new outfit.
Ignoring the sheer tedium of the central plot, wherein 50something Larry Crowne (Hanks) gets laid off and goes back to college, finding himself, love ― with seemingly schizophrenic alcoholic teacher Mercedes (No really, that's her name) Tainot (Julia Roberts) ― and his true life path in the process, this misguided and desultory rom-com has the banner distinction of being neither funny nor romantic.
The endless parade of well-worn gender gags and mawkish sitcom trajectories reek of co-screenwriter Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), doting on clichés like a lout husband (Bryan Cranston) looking up pictures of big boobs on the internet and Wilmer Valderrama (basically playing Fez) giving Hanks the stare down whenever he gets to close to his bullshit, male fantasy, free spirit girlfriend, Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).
And when these supposed comic scenes are leaving a silent, awkward void on screen, the actual plot meanders confusedly, inexplicably pushing Hanks and Roberts together romantically at the midway point despite the fact that we, as an audience, aren't convinced they even know each other's names. To boot, in the big scene where the two kiss and then feel compelled to dance and bounce around, Roberts is apparently drunk, despite being visibly sober two scenes earlier.
The entire ordeal is so desultory and incoherent, featuring the occasional minute-long shot of Roberts walking down a hallway for no discernable reason, that one has to wonder if entire segments were dropped in the editing room or if the screenplay was even finished when they started production.
Of course, what's more likely is that no one bothered to read the script, seeing Hanks's name on the cover page and moving it to green-light status based on prestige alone, telling the Bosom Buddies star, "Your invisible clothes look fantastic!" (Alliance)