Much like its title character, 'Larry Crowne' is a likeable and impetuously sweet little dramedy with an overly-cuddly romantic tinge meant to leave audiences all warm and fuzzy inside. Such is the case that one actually feels rather cruel saying anything negative about the movie. And even worse, about Crowne himself, played with such innocuous, good-natured humor by Tom Hanks that it escapes believability. In fact, the entire production pretty much fails at generating a sense of plausibility or leaving viewers with a lasting impression. We have little reason to cheer for our protagonist because it's immediately clear his peppy, positive personality will eventually overcome his economic hardships. Where is the surprise or dramatic journey in that?
Ultimately, there's not much about Larry Crowne or 'Larry Crowne' that is memorable, and we're never really given much of a reason to care. In the opening moments, we see the middle-aged U-Mart manager fired from his job, but the whole affair is more awkward and confusing than cataclysmic. He enrolls at his local community college, presumably somewhere in the San Fernando Valley, essentially to reinvent himself and open more opportunities. Hanks delivers the goods — as he usually does — by making Crowne as benign as a department store Santa. Again, we see this by how quickly he makes friends with a scooter gang full of students half his age.
But at the same time, he cruises through his first term of college without breaking a sweat, despite being continuously reminded he enlisted in the Navy after graduating high school. And therein lies another problem. There are quite a few characters proclaiming what they're doing or going to do, but in very odd ways which never affect the plot or the overall narrative, and they never seem authentic. Crowne, for example, claims to have a life-altering experience when he completes the term, particularly in Mrs. Tainot's (Julia Roberts) public speaking class, even though he appears to excel in Dr. Matsutani's (George Takei) economics course. However, it's never made precisely clear how when he's still the same guy chipper, happy-go-lucky guy we met at the beginning. What changed?
Helming this emotionally bland, light-hearted tale about nothing is the star himself, and we gather Mr. Hanks means well by it. Or at the least, gives his viewers a tremendously simple story of a hard-working Joe bouncing back onto his feet after being downsized. He also takes co-writing credit with Nia Vardalos, whose only note to fame is still the far, far superior 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding.' It's apparent the two kept a finger on the pulse of our current economic situation, but they never use it as something of importance in the lives of these characters — meaning it's barely mentioned, yet seems to be all around them, affecting Crowne most of all. It's a missed opportunity for connecting audiences with Crowne's journey, rather than just making him Forrest Gump's slightly smarter brother.
While Hanks doesn't completely hit it out of the park here, Julia Roberts as the irritable and generally dissatisfied college instructor brings some level of enjoyment. The communications teacher with horrible communication skills and a crummy marriage (yes, the display of irony is that obvious in this movie) is cruising through her own life-affirming changes, so we know where that's going. But Ms. Roberts is usually at her best when she's sassy and huffy, and it's no different in 'Larry Crowne' where she speaks her mind with her own unique brand of charm. The two A-list stars even show a great deal of chemistry between them, something terribly missing in another romantic dud that shall remain nameless. Unfortunately, those sparks go to waste in a far-too-forgettable adult comedy.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Larry Crowne' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc. It comes inside the standard blue keepcase, and starts with a series of internet-based trailers before greeting viewers with the usual menu selection, full-motion clips and music.
Looking much newer and youthful than his vintage scooter, 'Larry Crowne' arrives onto Blu-ray with a spotless and generally pleasing 1080p/VC-1 encode.
The 2.40:1 frame shows plenty of sharp details in the background as well as in the foreground. The fine lines around hair, clothing and other random objects are very well-defined and stable from start to finish. The entire picture displays spot-on contrast levels, providing the image with excellent crisp visibility in the far distance, while blacks are richly rendered and accurate, adding some depth and an attractive cinematic appeal. Colors are also quite bold, which plays well with the film's comedic tone, and facial complexions appear natural with textures that are quite revealing. Any complaints about the quality are mostly subjective, meaning it doesn't leave a lasting impression and feels fairly generic.
Overall, this is an affable presentation that will leave viewers happy.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is about equal with the video. Only, it's even less impressive, with only a few sporadic moments of rear activity. Atmospheric effects like birds chirping or the commotion of public spaces are used on occasion to enhance the soundfield. But instead of feeling immersive or genuine, the whole thing comes off a bit distracting because the sounds appear rather sudden and easily localized. The best aspect of the lossless mix is the warm and welcoming front soundstage where dialogue and whispered conversations are intelligibly heard. Although the design doesn't come with any complex spurts of action, the mid-range is sharply rendered and expansive while low bass provides some weight to the appropriate scenes. Altogether, it's a track that simply gets the job done without any issues or real complaints.
'Larry Crowne' arrives with a stunted collection of supplements, and none of them are of any great interest.
From the imagination of Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos, 'Larry Crowne' follows one man's journey to rediscovering himself after being downsized in the middle of a recession. Directed by Hanks, this romantic dramedy is an uninspired and unremarkable experience, where the only highlight is in watching Julia Roberts portray a cranky college instructor. The Blu-ray comes with a great audio and video presentation, but there's nothing really exceptional about it either. Supplements are an even greater displeasure as they're mostly comprised of throwaway material, except for one deleted scene. In the end, this is one package only fans will want to pick up. Others will want to give it a rent before deciding on a purchase.