Mr. Movie

'Larry Crowne' no crowning achievement for Hanks, Roberts

Larry Crowne starts with a deserved slam on corporate downsizing when Larry — a department store’s best employee — is unceremoniously dumped by soulless management.

In danger of losing his home and all he’s worked for, the middle-aged Larry goes back to college where he connects with characters that care and gets a chemistry lesson in a speech class.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

It’s people chemistry, and the lesson comes via a slowly growing crush on Julia Roberts’ unhappily married teacher.

Larry Crowne has too few positives and way too many minuses. It features superb performances from the always competent Hanks and Roberts, a decent cast of newbies and a really fun piece of work from original Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu -- George Takai -- as a robotic, monotoned economics teacher with a really creepy laugh.

That’s about it for the positives.

The downside is Hanks' writing and directing. There’s probably a reason he doesn’t do it more often.

Sans the chemistry between the uber-charismatic Roberts and Hanks’ winning, guy-living-next-door persona, Larry Crowne is nothing special. Unlike the snappy That Thing You Do, his most recent work as a director and writer, Larry Crowne plays akin to a decent episode for a TV series. That comment makes sense when you note Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame co-wrote the script.

Her flick was decent, popular and made her millions. It also became a seven-episode and very unsuccessful TV series proving Vardalos to be a one-hit wonder.

Her fingerprints are everywhere in Larry Crowne. An unreal sense of happiness permeates the film. Positives shimmer beneath the surface of plot parts that ought to be a bit more negative. None of the smiles seem real. The downward spiral continues to the underwhelming, predictable, you-can-write-it-yourself happy Hollywood climax.

Worse yet, Hanks and Vardalos missed an opportunity to give their film a terrific, wonder-what-happens ending; one that could have made Larry Crowne a crowning achievement for both Hanks and Roberts.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some language. It opens Friday, July 1 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.