It’s so hard to criticise Tom Hanks, but I’m going to have to give it a go. Larry Crown, a film which he not only stars in but also directs, writes and produces, is absolute rubbish. Hanks may be a likeable presence in any film – and the same goes for his co-star Julia Roberts – but this romcom’s faults are etched into its bland direction and naff script; two things that unfortunately Hanks has to be held accountable for.
The story is one of those ludicrous plots that have been tried many times before, something which may have been on the minds of the cast since they all (with the exception of Roberts) offer uninspired and lacklustre performances that would have looked second-rate in a gutter-level sitcom.
Hanks plays Larry, a guy who decides to seek higher education qualifications when he is made redundant. His class teacher is a borderline alcoholic (Roberts) who shows little passion for teaching. She hates life and her husband. But by meeting Larry she learns that life isn’t so bad, and he helps her to realise that her husband is a dick and should dropped immediately. For a while I hoped the film would suddenly take a whiplash-change of tone and depict her bloodily slaying her partner with a stapler before asking Larry to help her cover up the crime. Sadly Hanks wasn’t thinking along these lines when he wrote the screenplay. I won’t tell you the actual ending, but if you are of or above average intelligence, have seen the trailer, the poster and/or read the above synopsis I think you’re more than capable of working out the shocking conclusion without me being accused of spoiling the whole thing.
I wouldn’t be complaining about the unoriginality quite so much if the film had made me laugh, but Larry Crown turns out to be yet another film that deserves to be placed into the ever-growing genre of the ‘unfunny comedy’. There’s also an odd subplot involving a biker-girl and her gang of alternative-types who give Larry and his cluttered house a make-over. It feels forced and false.
Of course, humour is subjective, but the attempts at comedy in this film are so hackneyed and eye-wateringly obvious I suspect even the more forgiving of Hanks fans will come away feeling disappointed.
The most depressing aspect is the film’s incredible waste of talent. Julia Roberts is one of the acting elite, and must have taken on this role as a favour for her mate Tom. I can’t think why she would otherwise agree to star in such an inept picture. George Takei is also rather embarrassing as a freaky lecturer who repeatedly confiscates students’ mobile phones. Such talent-waste extends behind the camera too. James Newton Howard, one of the greatest composers working in Hollywood today, is barely given a chance to conjure up a mood with his score in between the flat gags.
It’s soul-destroying to see people you like and respect making fools of themselves. Roberts just about gets away with it – I’d pay to see her play biting and bitter any day – but for Hanks this is a sorry affair. I’d advise anyone who loves his classic catalogue films, such as You’ve Got Mail, Forest Gump and Sleepless in Seattle, to stay well clear of this if they don’t want their image of this once-great actor permanently besmirched.
Good: Julia Roberts is always great, though this only makes everything else feel even worse
Bad: The script is awful and the direction lifeless. And it isn’t funny.