Starring: Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts

Directed by: Tom Hanks

By Lloyd Carroll

      “Larry Crowne” purports to be another film that reflects the tough economic times that all too many Americans are facing. While it’s an innocuous way to spend 90 minutes, it is certainly no “Up In The Air.”

The titular character, Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks), is a hardworking team leader at a San Fernando Valley U-Mart, a big chain retailer modeled after you know what. Despite being well-like by colleagues and having been named “employee of the month” eight times, Larry is called into a meeting with store executives and told that he is being let go because he lacks a college degree. While the film says that he is a victim of downsizing, it seems that he is instead hurt by a new, sudden “up or out” philosophy at the store since he is told that without the sheepskin he can never be promoted.

Be that as it may, after pounding the pavement and discovering that it is hard to find a decent paying job when you are over 50  unexpectedly lose your previous one, Larry decides to enroll in fictional East Valley Community College in the hopes that it will lead to a better economic future for him.

Rather than be told to enroll in technical classes such as accounting or computer networking, he is told be a liberal arts-oriented dean to take speech, composition (although we never see him in that class) and Economics 101. Based on my experience, the only thing that matters in economics is supply and demand while everything else is used just to fill up textbooks.

Larry’s speech professor, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), is a bitter burnout whose favorite activity at home is breaking out the blender and down one margarita after another. She is married to failing writer (Bryan Cranston) who spends his days surfing the web for new porn sites. It is only a matter of time until she finds herself attracted to the salt-of-the-earth Larry.

It is unfortunate that “Larry Crowne” had the ingredients to be a good film but it loses its focus rather early. We are supposed to believe that AARP member Larry would be sought out by a group of young, mostly Hispanic, motorcycle riders to be their newest member. To be fair, in a refreshing change of pace, motorcycle enthusiasts are portrayed as upstanding citizens instead of criminal gang members. The film also points out the great gas mileage motorcycles get.

The notion that Roberts’ character, an aspiring Medieval English scholar  would embark on a romance with Hanks’, a part-time short order cook who is now a full-time student where she teaches, is rather far-fetched, even for romantic comedies.

One positive for the film is its supporting cast. Cedric the Entertainer nearly steals the film as Larry’s next door neighbor who is always having a flea market on his lawn. He enjoys the haggling far more than the actual selling. The always welcome Rob Riggle is hysterical as a blowhard U-Mart executive who gets him comeuppance.

“Larry Crowne” is not an awful film. It just should have been a lot better.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 252 user reviews.

Starring: Rahul Rai, Stefanie Estes & Freishia Bomanbehram

Directed by: Nayan Padrai

By Lloyd Carroll

“When Harry Tries To Marry” (not to be confused with the iconic “When Harry Met Sally”) is a likable low-budget indie flick that nicely blends American and South Asian cultures and mores.

Harish, a.k.a. Harry (Rahul Rai) is about to graduate from an unnamed Brooklyn college with a degree in architectural engineering. In a role reversal, it is Harry who believes in arranged marriages while his parents, now divorced, married for “love.” To avoid the bitterness that has consumed his folks, Harry is determined to marry the very attractive Nita (Freishia Bomanbehram), an Indian engineering student a week after he picks up his sheepskin. The two communicate nightly via Skype so Harry knows that his future wife is clearly not a dog.

Things get a bit complicated when he meets Theresa (Stefanie Estes), a very tall and beautiful girl in his sociology class, who is intrigued by his old-fashioned view of romance and by his ability to resist her many charms. The two hit it off and Harry is well aware that he now has a dilemma.

“When Harry Tries To Marry” is a pleasant film that doesn’t overstay its welcome by coming in at 93 minutes. The lead actors are all likable and appear to be destined for bigger budget films. Caitlin Gold and Osvaldo Hernandez Chavez nicely play the obligatory best friend second banana roles while veteran Bollywood actor Tony Mirrcandani steals the film as Dev, Harry’s playboy dad who actually sounds quite a bit like the late Penthouse Magazine founder Bob Guccione.

Even though this movie deals with India social life, and a portion of “When Harry Tries To Marry” was filmed there, director Nayan Padrai grew up in Queens while Rahul Rai is from Jericho so there is a New York sensibility here.

Frankly this is a better romantic comedy than what most of the big studios crank out these days. Jennifer Aniston could learn a thing or two from watching this film.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 222 user reviews.