n recent years, the summer multiplex has been ruled by superheroes and comic book franchises, and the booming special effects and scantily clad women that come with them. (To wit, Transformers: Dark of the Moon opened Wednesday.) But on Friday, a different sort of mainstream movie opened: Larry Crowne. Tom Hanks, who also directed the film, plays the titular character, a recently laid-off big box store manager who goes back to community college and falls for a leggy teacher (Julia Roberts). Does this sweet, tame romantic comedy, featuring stars well into their 40s, show that Hollywood should and can do more movies starring, and catering to, middle-aged folks? (Watch a trailer for the movie.)
No. This is why there aren't many movies about middle age: "I note with a shiver that, as a person over 40... I'm the target audience for Larry Crowne," says Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline. I'm glad it's not based on a comic book, but it's still a dull, awkward, "embarrassingly self-congratulatory" film. Hanks tries to play cute, something he can no longer pull off. His "Larry is so assertively regular he almost comes off as a special-needs child." Roberts, while radiant, has little to do here — a shame. "If these are the best roles we can come up with for middle-aged actors, no wonder there are so few movies geared toward that elusive — and, by Hollywood box-office standards, practically nonexistent — middle-aged audience."
"REVIEW: Larry Crowne gives middle-aged people — and actors — a bad name"
Yes. This is a charming alternative to Transformers: This is a movie my mother-in-law might like, and I mean that in a good way, says Andrew O'Hehir at Salon. Not a lot happens, making it "the perfect grown-up-aimed counterprogramming to Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which has way too much of everything." It's a square, silly, screwball affair, and a relatively chaste one at that. Hanks and Roberts are seasoned professionals who know how to charm an audience. Sure, it's insubstantial, too precious at times, and unrealistic at others, but ultimately, I can't help but think of Larry Crowne fondly.
"Larry Crowne: Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts' tepid screwball love affair"
It tries to be that charming alternative... and fails: Larry Crowne is "intended as the perfect counterprogramming to Hollywood's most callous exercise in soulless commerce" — the new Transformers movie, says John Anderson in The Wall Street Journal. But it's little more than a mere "sop to certain disgruntled theatergoers." The writing is painfully unfunny, the direction "generally awkward," and the whole premise cloying. Tom Hanks is a "National Treasure," and while it's typically hard to resist his charms, here, it's all too easy.
"Crowne: A bad fit for Hollywood royalty"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why are so many elderly Asians killing themselves?
- Why ABC threw its Bachelor under the bus
- Why I'm sick and tired of seeing naked women on HBO
- Why Ted Cruz is the real-life Frank Underwood
- Driverless cars may be an environmental disaster
- Here's proof that Justin Bieber is just as spoiled as you always thought
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Here's how Iran is covering Russia's invasion of Crimea
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- Watch Zach Galifianakis get annoyed at President Obama on Between Two Ferns
Subscribe to the Week