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Movie Review

Larry Crowne

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content.

Reviewed by: Scott Brennan

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Comedy Drama
1 hr. 39 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 1, 2011 (wide—2,750+ theaters)
DVD: November 15, 2011
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

starting a new career and a new life

financial problems due to loss of job

ANXIETY, FEAR AND WORRY—What does the Bible say? Answer


PORNOGRAPHY—How can I tell if I’m getting addicted to pornography or sex? Answer

How can I deal with temptations? Answer



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Featuring: Tom HanksLarry Crowne
Julia RobertsMercedes Tainot
Taraji P. Henson
Cedric the Entertainer … Lamar
George Takei … Ed Matsutani
Bryan CranstonDean
Wilmer Valderrama
Nia Vardalos (voice)
Pam Grier
more »
Director: Tom Hanks
Producer: Playtone Productions
Vendome Pictures
more »
Distributor: Universal Pictures

The famous hymn, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” applies only to the Lord Jesus and would certainly not apply to “Larry Crowne.” Although, in this story, the likeable character, Larry Crowne, created and played by Tom Hanks, does repeatedly receive the “employee of the month” award and enjoys his coffee in a mug with a golden crown decal. That’s about as close as it gets.

The screenplay and film is written and directed by Hanks himself, but even the star power of this two-time Oscar® winner, along with his one-time Oscar® winner co-star, Julia Roberts (Mercedes Tainot), aren’t enough to make this film shine past the “fluff” mark, despite their combined-enormous-box-office-successes of the past.

For those that may choose to see this romantic comedy, before it comes out on DVD or is available for streaming (I would recommend waiting for it), let me say that you’ve seen this movie before. Predictable would be an understatement. It has a “Sleepless in Seattle” or “When Harry Met Sally” sort of feel, but with the updated plot point (recent economy) of someone being out of a job due to company down-sizing, as in “The Company Men.” Now take the film down a notch or two, almost to the level of a pilot for a TV comedy series about a community college communications course with Julia Roberts as Mrs. Tainot, the teacher, and you’d be right there with “Larry Crowne.”

If you’ve seen the trailer, you pretty much know the plot line—a place for me to express my dismay as a reviewer at this increasingly frustrating practice by film producers in Hollywood.

Larry Crowne, a middle-aged nobody, working in sales for a big-name-retail-giant has a surprising turn of events in his life. He’s lost his job and is forced to reinvent himself. He starts by going to community college. I say “starts,” because he’s never been to college before—having gone directly from Navy cook to this retail giant (where he’d been crowned employee of the month 8 times) before finally being “canned” in the opening scenes.

Apparently not successful at marriage, alone, and buried in debt, he tries to make the best of it. What he didn’t expect was getting a “mid-life crush” on his communication teacher at the college, an unhappily married woman (Roberts), who often starts her day with an alcoholic slush. What she didn’t expect was, well, you can figure it out. Throw in a fun performance from George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) who played Hanks’ Economics professor, Dr. Matsutani, as well as a stand-out performance by young TV star Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Undercovers”), and you have all the trappings of a traditional romantic comedy.

The movie is rated PG-13 for some language, drinking, and adult themes, although, I must say up front, this movie is fairly tame, and it appears like they added these items to the script to get the rating moved from “G.” That’s not to say it doesn’t earn the mark it received, it’s merely an observation. I counted only one use of the “f” word (…ing-variation) which appears awkwardly portrayed and doesn’t seem to fit the character of Mrs. Tainot when she says it aloud in the film. There are two uses of the word “b*tch” and a few sundry “d” words. If there is any profanity, it slipped past me. Roberts’s self-medication with blended bourbon drinks is somewhat distracting and emphasized in the film for comedic effects.

There is a preoccupation in the script with Mrs. Tainot’s, stay-at-home, writer-husband looking at porn, and him being obsessed with well-endowed women, although most of that is inferred. There is one shot of him clicking off a computer site with a woman in a bikini, but no nudity. Hanks appears in his underwear (backside) in one scene (seen in the trailer), and there are a couple of close-ups of Gugu’s lower back—zooming in on her Chinese tattoos. Other than two shots of Hanks and Robert’s kissing outside their respective apartment doors, there are no other sex or related sex scenes.

Finally, while it is clear that Mrs. Tainot finally threw her husband out, it’s not certain that they were ever divorced, and certainly not when she kisses Hanks the first time—pushing the limits of faithfulness to one’s spouse beyond scriptural guidelines. Of course, this script doesn’t pretend to be trying to adhere to any such boundaries. It is what it is, a romantic comedy, from a secular world-view, playing to an audience of the same.

To his credit, there is a lot of thoughtfulness to Hank’s script. It appears to be an attempt to return to the old-fashioned love story, or at least the ones that Hanks made popular in the 80’s. The classroom scenes in the speech class are funny, well-written and quite frankly are a great set up for a return to an updated TV series version of “Room 222” or a similar program in this genre. The climax of the film, also taking place in the classroom, is almost worth the wait, and does cause the eyes to moisten a bit, but not like “Dead Poets Society.”

It’s what this film is not about that I found the most engaging. That given adverse circumstances, the human spirit is capable of so much more, if only they would chose to learn in those situations. Even a speech class (public speaking being the number one fear among humans), can be a tool for conquering ones’ fears and moving forward in life. “Perfect Love casts out all fear,” 1 John 4:18 comes to mind. Too bad there isn’t even a miniscule reference to the Creator of love Himself, somewhere in the movie—rather than the veiled allusion to one in the form of Tai Chi.

This past 4th of July weekend came and went with lots of fireworks around the country. Unfortunately, there were only a few sparks for this film’s opening weekend. As romantic comedies go, it is a sweet film, in a cotton-candy-kind-of-way. But just like that fluffy sugar in my mouth, it was pretty much gone by the time I left the carnival, I mean theater.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I saw this movie last night and enjoyed it. Certainly Tom Hanks did an excellent job as did Julia Roberts. Although most things were okay, there were some moments that could be offensive. The premise of the story is that Larry loses his job because his employer is downsizing, and he hasn’t been to college. He decides to go to college and falls in love with his unhappily married teacher, Mercedes Tainot. Although there are a couple of kissing scenes, they do use restraint, and Larry stops them, as Ms. Tainot is drunk, and says they are going to do the right thing. In one scene, we see the back of Larry’s underwear, as he is trying on some new pants, because his younger classmate friend is doing a makeover job on him.

Tom Hanks transformation is worth seeing, and he was really quite cute and funny. There is a minimal amount of more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kathy Pj, age 51 (Canada)
Positive—As an adult, I enjoyed this movie. Seeing a down on your luck guy, but who really has a good heart, make difficult decisions and work his way out of some bad situations was very refreshing. It is a bit lightweight, but it is a romantic comedy. Regarding the moral rating, the moving could easily have gone PG with about 30 seconds cut out.

First, the movie was so light on profanity that when the f-word is yelled, it really seemed out of place and forced. Second, the professor’s husband has a porn issue, so there are some pictures of girls in very little clothing. Third, when Larry and his teacher have their little make out session, there was talk of inappropriate touching, as well as the fact that she was still a married woman. And fourth, she has some drinking issues.

All of that said, there is some redemption in the movie, because in the end the good guy wins. Of course, there is no mention of God.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Wesley, age 47 (USA)
Positive—Going into “Larry Crowne,” I didn’t have high hopes, thinking it would have been just a movie for two wonderful actors to make a quick buck. However, there was some substance to the movie. Although the storyline has its holes, it keeps you interested, especially with Julia Roberts’ character. Her husband has a problem looking at pornography and in a day where most secular movies or regular TV refers to pornography as a regular part of a man’s life, this movie portrays pornography as wrong and harmful to a relationship. It is refreshing to see that non-Christians can see the sin in the filthy evil of pornography.

There are many other good qualities about the movie, such as more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Alisha, age 24 (USA)
Positive—What a delightful film! Tom and Julia were great together. I was somewhat apprehensive as I didn’t like them in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” but 15 minutes in I knew this was going to be a winner. Most of the audience seemed to enjoy it—people were smiling as they exited the theater. As has been said, Julia’s character drinks, her husband porn surfs and there is the use of the F-word (I suspect they did this to get a PG-13 rating). Other than that, I did not find anything extremely offensive. In fact, I relaxed and got involved in the plot. What with the poor offering this summer, I was glad to finally see something that didn’t involve a “superhero” with over-the-top special effects. If you like Tom Hanks, go see it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Reba, age 40+ (USA)
Positive—True entertainment a real delight! We loved it—every minute of it. All the actors did a terrific job. I would even like to see it again. It was fun, poignant and very enjoyable.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dottie, age 67 (USA)
Positive—It was truly refreshing to view a film without all the objectionable content that you see in many films these days. There were many life-lessons scattered throughout the movie, and it also had plenty of humor.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—S. Mcdonald, age 37 (USA)
Positive—Loved this movie! Very enjoyable, I laughed a lot throughout the entire thing. Everyone was very quirky and fun to watch; there was hardly any problematic content at all. If it wasn’t for the one f-word, it could have been rated PG, and it’s kind of weird that the filmmakers chose to put in that one swear word, when there were no other profanities. It’s almost like a PG rating would be too lame, so they stuck it in there for an automatic PG-13.

Anyway… again, I loved it; my only slight complaint would be in the romance department, because it was just one of those stories where the couple seemed like they were madly in love at the end, and I’m left wondering… why? It just didn’t seem like they knew each other well enough. But that didn’t ruin it for me, at all, and I would definitely recommend it to people who like quirky comedies!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kadie Jo, age 19 (USA)
Neutral—This movie did not work for me, at all, and that is so unfortunate. I would give it a negative rating because of its lame writing and directing, but can’t bring myself to give a negative to Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, who are watchable, even in this poorly conceived film. There is no consistency to the focus, shifting from the serious topics of job loss and marriage failure to goofy young people on scooters and the rather funny neighbor next door with his perpetual yard sale, played well by Cedric the Entertainer, and non-believable characters in a classroom. The people in my audience were my age or older. Not one could have been younger than 60. Has it really come to this for two talented and expensive stars—a pathetic, commercial effort that flops?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Halyna Barannik, age 65 (USA)
Neutral—This movie was entertaining for the most part, and didn’t have much bad language, nor any sex scenes. I think it captured some of the major issues everyday people are facing right now, like downsizing and moving on after the end of a marriage. I liked the relationship with Larry and his goofy, yet sweet and endearing neighbors. I wish more neighbors were as kind and helpful as they were to him.

My boyfriend and I laughed at the portrayal of junior college, which we’ve both experienced. They got a couple of things right, but more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Nicole, age 26 (USA)
Negative—This movie was just a disappointment. Julia Roberts was so unbelievable in this roll, which I attributed to both her acting and the empty script. Although I wanted to believe Larry Crowne could be a real person (if anyone could breath life into Larry, it would be Tom Hanks), I just couldn’t. Nothing seemed real about him… his house, neighborhood/neighbors, his relationship with scooter gang, etc.) ***SMALL SPOILER AHEAD*** The scene where Hanks kisses Roberts for the first time, I totally saw no chemistry between them. Worse than this, though were the fights between Roberts and her husband… marked by quiche phrases and poor timing. It was just ugly all around.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Kris, age 43 (USA)
Negative—I walked away from this movie thinking it was “cute”. However, after a few days, I logged on to check the reviews again. I feel I must write a review because no one put a great deal of emphasis on the fact that watching this movie introduces you to pornography. The image displayed on the computer screen in the movie and then again at the end of the movie keeps popping up in my mind, and I pray with time and prayer, it will go away. If you don’t want a new or added image in your head to contend with, DON’T WATCH THIS MOVIE!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Renee, age 40 (USA)
Negative—There is no reason any Christian should see this movie. If you want to laugh, just watch the preview, all the funny parts are there. Julia Roberts’ character makes a point to tell Tom Hanks she is married and flashes a ring in his face, moments before she offers herself for sex. The surprise is when he, at first, refuses, but I suspect it is only because she is drunk, for, in the end, it is implied they get together. The flashes of pornography are too prominent, and will linger in the minds of men. I wonder why they are even there, if they want imply that porn is wrong, and leads to divorce, then why show it in the movie. They could make their point without showing us anything.

There just is not enough moral living in this movie to make it worth seeing. To the world, it would all seem normal, but for Christians, who should be fighting against the behaviors portrayed in this movie, there is no reason to watch.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Kathleen, age 48 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—When I heard about this movie, I thought it would be awesome because Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks was in it. But I was so wrong. It was extremely boring and had a lot of adult content. I was so surprised it was rated PG-13. And besides that it was just so weird. I would not want ANYONE to watch this.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Meaghan, age 13 (USA)