Tom Hanks' 'Larry Crowne': What the Critics Say

Larry Crowne Review 2011

Mercedes (JULIA ROBERTS) holds onto Larry (TOM HANKS) in a romantic comedy about how the hard knocks from today?s recession inspire one everyday guy to undergo a personal reinvention and an unexpected second act in his life.

THR’s Kirk Honecutt argues that the movie, which also stars Julia Roberts, plays more like a sitcom pilot, while the Wall Street Journal’s John Anderson writes that the film is a “distinctly painful experience.”


Tom Hanks is back on the big screen Friday in Larry Crowne, which he also produced, directed and co-wrote with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

The movie stars Hanks as a recently unemployed middle-aged man opposite Julia Roberts, Wilmer Valderrama and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Larry Crowne opens Friday, and critics are weighing in.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt argues that the movie seems more like a sitcom pilot wherein several comic situations need to be set up.

“Fans of the two stars -- among the most popular actors in Hollywood over the past two decades-plus -- probably won’t mind the light, sitcom approach, but there was a much more meaningful, if somewhat darker, movie in the story Hanks dreamed up with the help of Nia Vardalos,” he writes.

Honeycutt added that the screenplay itself could have used some work.

“Hanks has a lot of good ideas for a comedy about a man remaking his life, but he might have chosen the wrong writing partner in Vardalos,” he writes. “Her comic writing tends toward on-the-money scenes with her main characters and pure caricatures for all her minor ones. She got away with this -- boy, did she ever! -- in the hugely successful My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which Hanks produced. But here, the determination to go for easy laughs undermines any chance for meaty drama.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal’s John Anderson was more blunt in his assessment of the movie.

“As difficult as it is to dislike Mr. Hanks, it takes no effort to all to develop an aversion toward Larry Crowne, the alleged comedy being perpetrated today by Mr. Hanks; his director, Mr. Hanks; his producer, Mr. Hanks; and the co-writer, Mr. Hanks,” he writes. “It is a distinctly painful experience.”

Anderson also argues that there wasn’t much thought put into the movie.

“So little effort has been exerted toward making Larry Crowne more than a class-warfare cartoon that the film generates its own sense of cynicism and the distinct sense that Larry Crowne is simply a sop to certain disgruntled theatergoers,” he continued. “Some may see it as a movie that strives to restore emotional warmth and simple human values to a medium that could certainly use a little more of both. But unlike the freshly matriculated Larry himself, Larry Crowne gets a flunking grade in every discipline.”

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times also was not a fan.

Larry Crowne is an inside-out movie, acceptable around the edges but hollow and shockingly unconvincing at its core,” he writes. “When that core is two of the biggest movie stars around — Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts — it's an especially dispiriting situation.”

He goes on to praise Hanks’ talents, which are put to waste here, Turan argues.

“Hanks is one of the few stars actually capable of playing ordinary,” he continues. “But saddled with a self-inflicted script that presents a character as chipper and gee whiz as Forrest Gump, Hanks' attempts at creating empathy invariably go astray.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times critic Stephen Holden wasn’t quite as negative in his review.

Larry Crowne is a rom-com fairy tale so tepid and well behaved that watching it feels like being stuck in traffic as giddy joy-riders in the opposite lane break the speed limit,” he writes. “You have little choice but to cool your heels and pretend that the parched crabgrass in the median is a field of flowers.”

He added that the “jokes scattered throughout the screenplay ... elicit mild chuckles” but still ended the review on a more upbeat note than the other critics.

“The reliable if slowly fading charms of its stars lend Larry Crowne a gloss of likability,” he writes. “But by the time it ends, we have long ago left Earth to settle on Planet Schmaltz with a syrupy pile of French toast.”