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Thursday, July 7, 2011 10:13 am

Larry Crowne: An ode to the common man

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Cedric the Entertainer, Tom Hanks and Taraji P. Henson in Larry Crowne.

Baseball manager Leo Durocher once said, “Nice guys finish last.” Well don’t tell that to Larry Crowne. He has his share of troubles but he never fails to approach each day with a smile and a positive attitude. Yet even his rose-colored glasses get a bit blurred when he’s fired from his job at a big box retailer and told his lack of a college education prevents him from advancing in the company, despite nine employee-of-the-month awards. Pragmatic guy that he is, Larry enrolls at the local community college and ends up in a speech class taught by a burnt out instructor (Julia Roberts) who struggles with a loser husband and a growing drinking problem.

It’s easy to see why Tom Hanks would be attracted to Larry Crowne. The title role is right in his wheelhouse and he fills this eternal optimist’s shoes without breaking a sweat. That he co-wrote and directs the film speaks of his passion for the project as well. And while the script does have its share of problems (it’s woefully simplistic at times) there’s an affable feel to this film that’s hard to resist.

What with dealing with unemployment, facing foreclosure and forced to deal with a world that’s passed him by, Larry is an Everyman for today, a character many can empathize with as he’s forced to hit the restart button. There’s something heroic in the way he diligently hunkers down in a booth at the restaurant he works at once his shift is done and tackles his homework. Hanks embodies the character’s noble qualities in a way only he can and his earnestness helps us overlook the movie’s faults.

While we’ve come to appreciate firemen and police officers more in the last decade, the efforts of those who get up and work hard, look out for others and act with honor in a time when fat cats grow plumper and when sloth and eccentric behavior are rewarded have been overlooked. Larry Crowne is not a great film by any means but it is one for our times as it gently reminds us that the potential for quiet heroics present themselves each day. That Larry realizes this and acts upon it makes him a king among men.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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