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Originally published Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 3:01 PM

Movie review

'Larry Crowne' is the king of nice

A review of "Larry Crowne," an upbeat fantasy about an everyday Joe, played by Tom Hanks. Julia Roberts co-stars.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Larry Crowne,' with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wilmer Valderrama. Directed by Hanks, from a screenplay by Hanks and Nia Vardalos. 99 minutes. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content. Several theaters.

quotes I got a cavity just reading this review. Read more
quotes It looks like complete dreck. This review confirms it. Read more
quotes Well, cb, my insulin pump shorted out. Read more

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"Larry Crowne" is such a twinkly and likable movie, you wish it were a better one. Starring the twinkly and likable Tom Hanks (who also directed and co-wrote, with Nia Vardalos), it's the story of the nicest guy in the world.

Larry Crowne, who's in his 50s, spent time in the Navy before taking a sales job at a big-box electronics store. He works there for many years, making friends and helping customers — and then he's summarily fired, ostensibly for not having a college degree. Underwater on his mortgage and reeling from the financial free fall of a bad divorce, poor sweet Larry, blinking in the California sunshine, is facing a grim future.

That's the first few minutes of the movie, and they aren't promising; though Larry's troubles are certainly reflective of today's economic climate, they're presented so cutely that nothing seems real. Luckily, "Larry Crowne" the movie quickly remembers that it's a fantasy, and things immediately pick up for Larry Crowne the character: In short order, he acquires a scooter, finds a new job and signs up for community college. There, he meets a) a lovely and age-appropriate speech professor (Julia Roberts) with a bad marriage and a drinking problem, and b) a lovely and age-inappropriate fellow student (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who adopts Larry as a sort of pet, giving him a makeover and recruiting him into her ever-smiling scooter gang. (If you're not sure which woman he ends up with, you haven't seen enough movies.)

In time (not much), things work out so nicely that "Larry Crowne" could well cause a flood of middle-age men to sign up for community college, in hopes of meeting dewy young women who'll put them in cuter shirts. Most of the characters lack nuance — particularly Roberts' no-good husband, played with a nearly mustache-twirling sneer by Bryan Cranston — and the plot jerks along awkwardly. We learn, pretty quickly, that nothing terrible's going to happen to Larry, so it all becomes a matter of waiting for Roberts' character to stop being pissed off.

But the movie has just enough funny lines and amusing casting choices (George Takei has a ball as a pompous economics professor) to make it all go down pleasantly, and Hanks' sweetly brash charisma could fill an entire multiplex of movies and then some. You find yourself rooting for Larry, though he doesn't need it — nice guys, in this movie, always finish first.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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