Blu-ray Review: Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Tom Hanks | CAST: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, George Takei, Pam Grier, Bryan Cranston, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Cedric the Entertainer, Rita Wilson
RELEASE DATE: 11/15/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray $34.99
BONUSES: deleted scenes, featurettes
SPECS: PG-13 | 99 min. | Romantic comedy | 2.40:1 aspect ratio | DTS-HD audio | English, Spanish and French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Larry CrowneWatching Larry Crowne, one thought pops up: What was Tom Hanks thinking?

I’m a fan of Hanks as an actor (Big, Forrest Gump, Philadelphia), but he really should stick to that. Like his only other writer/director attempt, That Thing You Do!, Larry Crowne is light and sweet, but unlike That Thing You Do!, the new movie lacks drama and comedy and tries much too hard — and fails miserably — to be authentic. Nia Vardalos, who broke out with the great romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding but hasn’t written anything as good since, co-wrote Larry Crowne, but she couldn’t save it from dwindling into lackluster schmaltz.

The movie tells the story of Crowne (Hanks) who loses his job at discount store UMart because he doesn’t have a college degree. Strangely enough, the fact that he didn’t go to college didn’t seem to matter during the last 12 years that Crowne has worked there and the nine times the store awarded him as Employee of the Month. And, is no college credits a good enough reason to fire someone? I’m pretty sure he could sue for wrongful dismissal.

If you can get past that part, you’ll see Crowne take some college classes including economics with George Takei (TV’s Heroes) and Julia Roberts’ (Eat Pray Love) speech class. Before enrolling, however, Crowne looks like he’s pretty good at both: Now that he’s not making his border-line minimum wage salary anymore he downgrades from his gas-guzzling SUV to a scooter (economic smarts) and shows his confidence and speech skills by visiting numerous stores on a job hunt. The fact that he doesn’t land another job doesn’t seem to have anything to do with his skills and more to do with the economy. Hanks’ Crowne is a likeable, friendly, outgoing guy. Perhaps he’d be better off taking classes for a new trade.

When Crowne does finally land a new job, it’s not thanks to college. He gets a job as a short-order cook, a skill he learned in the Navy. Hmmm.

Then there’s the friendship he strikes up with Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, TV’s Undercovers), a quirky co-ed who calls Larry Lance Corona and pulls him into a scooter gang. Yeah, that’s right.

Meanwhile, Larry’s neighbor has been having a garage sale on his lawn every day for the past year and apparently no one who lives around him has complained. Yeah, that’s realistic too.

Oh, and then there’s the romance part, which is actually the least significant aspect of the whole film. And if you’re thinking the movie has lots of good actors, you’d be right — it’s great to see Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) and Bryan Cranston (TV’s Breaking Bad) is always fun — but they’re all woefully wasted.

Hence my original question: What was Hanks thinking?

According to Vardalos in the making-of featurette on the Blu-ray: “Tom had the idea for the script about a slice of life of middle America and what people are going through economically in this country and around the world.” Galant, Tom, but seriously, what do you, a major movie star who makes how many millions of dollars for every movie you make, know about the life of middle America in these hard economic times? Did you see The Company Men? That was closer.

Hanks shows off how clueless he is in the featurette “Fun On Set,” in which he’s checking out the discount store location (while loading up a cart of things he obviously doesn’t need) and says, “Who would have thought you can buy a toilet seat in Kmart?” Guess Hanks doesn’t shop in Kmart very often.

The other item on the Blu-ray’s special features list is a handful of deleted scenes that don’t add much to the film. The rest of the making-of featurette is a miss too, consisting of Roberts and others going on about how great Hanks is.

The movie itself looks and sounds fine on the high-definition sound and audio on the Blu-ray, but there’s not much to show off in either.

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.