It was the Firesign Theatre that first presented “honest stories of working people as told by rich Hollywood stars,” a disclaimer especially apt for Larry Crowne. Of course, despite oodles of sweetness, there’s very little honesty in this film.
People like Tom Hanks and co-writer Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) might be well-intentioned; they probably believe they are doing a public service, telling the story of a Wal-Mart-like victim of downsizing who hits rock bottom, finds his town’s community college can provide life redemption, and discovers true love. But it’s patronizing and a bit cruel, really. Only big-moneyed stars don’t understand that the suburban home Larry (Hanks) loses when he gets laid off would’ve been unobtainable to him in the first place. And the Julia Roberts character—an English teacher who throws erasers at her noisy pupils—well, she hasn’t attended a consciousness-raising session put on by college administrators lately. They might have gotten away with this film as a period piece set sometime before the Reagan presidency; but even then it would have come off as thinly veiled social engineering. Don’t be a fool; go to school. It’s a bone thrown to victims of corporate heartlessness.
Besides that, Larry Crowne is not very funny. Hanks here—as he did in his lovely film That Thing You Do!—is adept at creating whimsical interludes, and the casting is nice. But the situation is too painful to be rescued by city colleges and whimsy. It’s not real enough to be true, and it’s too real to be anywhere close to funny.