Tuesday June 28th 2011
I watched Sleepless in Seattle again the other night, and as well as remembering how much better it is than When Harry Met Sally (feel free to disagree but also know that you are categorically wrong), I suddenly realised how long it’s been since Tom Hanks has been properly charming in anything. It seems like every character he’s played in the last ten years has either been a boring plank, a cartoon, or a romantic lead clearly written for somebody twenty years his junior.
With Larry Crowne, his second stab at directing, it’s time for Hanksy to finally own up to not being 25 any more, as he steps into the shoes of the titular Mr. Crowne, a Navy veteran who loses his job at a supermarket due to TOPICAL DOWNSIZING THAT IS TOPICAL. And if you think that sounds distressing and emotional, never fear: the scene in which Crowne gets fired occurs less than five minutes into a movie that is otherwise entirely devoid of any conflict whatsoever.
Instead, Hanks’s film is an insanely tedious series of increasingly saccharine ‘feel-good’ moments, in which Boring Old Man Larry Crowne goes to community college, becomes inexplicably popular with a group of attractive young students, has a makeover, falls in love with Julia Roberts and generally has everything go right for him all the time. All of which might be great fun for Larry Crowne, but carries about as much dramatic weight as a baby eating a Jaffa Cake.
Julia Roberts cements her apparent disdain for challenging work with the role of Mercedes Tainot (that’s Mercedes Tainot), a college professor who may or may not have distinguishable character traits. Equally wasted are Bryan Cranston, as her ‘professional blogger’ husband (get ready for plenty of ‘Ha! Blogs! Aren’t they worthless!’ business) and Taraji P. Henson, whose transformation from talented actress to permanently sceptical chipmunk is nearly complete:
In a way it’s quite sweet that Tom Hanks is so reluctant to introduce any kind of bad vibes into the equation. He’s like a friendly teddy bear wobbling around entertaining the elderly and infirm with big happy stories full of big happy people, and is that really such a crime?
I mean, whatever you think of his movies, you can’t deny that he’s one of the cuddliest directors in Hollywood. CAN YOU?
And Larry Crowne is exactly that: the cinematic equivalent of a big friendly cuddle, albeit one that makes you want to vomit up your own soul at the sheer awfulness of it all.