Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne

Run time 95 minutes.
OK for children.

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in “Larry Crowne.”

This is another chick flick apparently designed to drive men who somehow find themselves in the theater stark-raving mad. The cast consists of two fading superstars, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Roberts is a veteran of deplorable chick flicks, her last being 2010’s excruciating Eat Pray Love. The fact that Hanks has avoided chick flicks doesn’t mean that he’s been in good movies, however. His last was the laughable Angels and Demons (2009).

Although Hanks has the reputation as an easy-going nice guy, his films are often filled with leftwing ideology. But he doesn’t limit his biases to politics, Angels and Demons and its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code (2006), were both anti-Catholic. Anybody who would star in such films must necessarily be tarred with the brush of intolerance, especially since the films were so obviously bigoted, if not defamatory, despite the fact that the author of the books ardently defended the accuracy of Da Vinci in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

This film, written (with Nia Vardalos) and directed by Hanks, has a political bias that is right up his alley. The basis of the film is that Hanks is a wonderful employee of UMart, a Walmart clone. He’s been awarded “Employee of the Month” award eight times and when he’s called to the office, he’s expecting another one. But when he gets to the meeting, he’s confronted by all his superiors (all shown to be dopes) who say the corporation is downsizing and getting rid of everyone without a college degree.

This is not the way corporations operate. In order to make his point of the evil of the corporate world, Hanks has it backwards. When the economy goes bad and earnings dive, corporations don’t fire the lowly paid employees like Hanks, they look at highly compensated workers to dump in order to replace them by people earning less. So in the real world, the three dopes firing Tom would be the ones to go and Tom would take their jobs. But Hanks obviously has a political agenda and he takes this movie, which he wrote and directed, as a way to make it.

The rest of the story is good-natured Tom going to college where he meets a speech teacher, Julia Roberts, and a typically precocious coed, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who, despite her tender years, has all the answers as to how middle-aged Tom should dress and walk and talk and lead his life. There is apparently a romance between Tom and Julia, but I couldn’t see any feeling between them. If two superstars can’t create chemistry where none exists, do they really deserve the reputation as superstars?

The film has other annoyances. Gugu’s boyfriend is the leader of a gang that rides motorbikes. The film has several scenes with these tough-looking guys tooling around like Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) and Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider (1969). Marlon and Peter and Dennis looked tough and menacing. These guys look silly, like if anyone crossed them they’d hit him with their purses.

Roberts makes it a point to laugh whole-heartedly in virtually every film in which she appears. Bad idea. Whenever she cackles, that insincere laugh is like fingernails dragged across a blackboard.

This was such a drag I spent most of my time cataloging the product placements that allowed the film to be financed. Apple, Coca-Cola, even the Tam O Shanter restaurant, were among the many who gave money to be promoted in this thing.

On the positive side, it is sweet, so it’s possible that chicks might like this, but then they probably liked Mona Lisa Smile, a 2003 Roberts effort, too.

The Names of Love

Run time 102 minutes.
Not for children

Can love survive between two people who are desperately different? Baya Benmahmoud (Sara Forestier) is a very young, leftwing liberal. Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin) is a quiet, middle-aged moderate. Both seem to be running away from their roots. Both her parents and grandparents were from Algeria, so she is an Arab. Martin’s parents are Jewish, but his name is non-Semitic. If he does not actively hide his Jewishness, he does not advertise it either.

While Baya is shamelessly sexual, Arthur is discrete to a fault. Baya’s sole goal in life seems to be to convert conservative men to her liberal point of view by sleeping with them. The film contains lots of nudity, including an abundance of shots of full frontal nudity, fortunately, all female, but is a thought-provoking love story about two people using their roots as a tapestry from which to build their lives instead of being a prisoner of them. In French.

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