Dir. Tom Hanks. USA. 2011.

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The release of a multiple Oscar winning Tom Hanks’ film has always been a big event worldwide . ‘Larry Crowne’ his latest, has had basks in a  fair share of attention-more so because Hanks is back as an actor-director after a very long hiatus ( the last being his 1996 release ‘That thing you do.’). But is it any good? Well, this film is really not another ‘Forrest Gump’ though the titular character’s appeal is similar. An average Joe, a former navy cook, now a tireless worker at U Mart, Larry Crowne (Hanks), finds himself out of a job instead of receiving his 10th Employee of the year reward which he was expecting. The recession has reared it’s ugly head and Larry, who does not possess a college education, becomes reduced to just another statistic. He is  forced to reinvent himself thanks to some crippling alimony payments and  a heavy mortgage to pay-off. So he joins a community college to gain some much needed communication skills and ends up attracting the attentions of his teacher Ms Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) and fellow student Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Larry is so unexciting and bland an individual sans personality that his friends use him as a canvas to project their quirks. Talia tampers with his blandness to convert him into a scooter riding free spirit rechristened Lance Corona , Tainot –who is trapped in a miserable marriage to a porn surfing flop writer Dean (Bryan Cranston) finds herself attracted to Crowne while helping him build his confidence andhis Japanese Economics professor (George Takei) imparts zen-like cryptic messages to help him gain financial freedom.

The film is designed and structured as a rom-com but it’s not all that tender, happy or fulfilling. Larry Crowne’s story, as written by Hanks and co-scripted by Nia Vardalos (lead actor and scriptwriter of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’) has very little to offer in terms of strong emotions or touching heartfelt moments. The narrative is dramatically uneventful  and insipid. Hanks makes the narrative so bland and unexciting that it becomes a metaphor representing the lead character’s personality. Even when Crowne  seems to be getting a life, the narrative remains disinterested and lifeless.  The romantic chemistry between Hanks and Roberts is lukewarm at best and the characters they assay are merely sufferable - not the endearing we expect. The writing  does not lend itself to satire either. There is little reason to smile and even less of a reason to feel affectionate about this utterly clueless and put-upon tale. Really not the kind of film a gifted actor like Hanks should have green-lighted!

Rating:   *  

Johnson Thomas

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