Larry Crowne: Does Hollywood have a middle-age problem?

The new romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts might be a perfect, mature antidote to summer blockbusters... or a uniquely cloying poison

Tom Hanks at the Los Angeles premiere of "Larry Crowne," held at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on June 27.
(Image credit: RD / Orchon / Corbis)

In 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."

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