A very long, bizarre movie, feels like the script was written by a distracted conspiracy theorist then it was was filmed completely straightfaced by dedicated (but low-budget) actors and craftsmen armed with heavy giallo lighting.
Opens with a massive fake rant about yuppie culture on 60 Minutes, then our man Trent sees himself inside the TV preview for The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Outside, a maniac in a hairpiece is wrapping a dead woman in foil. I think this is Trent’s brother, but Trent complains to his wife about “your brother-in-law,” which is a strange way to refer to your own brother. After the brother(-in-law) sexually harasses a woman whose Secret Service ex-boyfriend then runs him over repeatedly in an alley while a lumpy pink alien look on, I realized I needed to let go of basic things like the characters’ identities and relationships.
“Get her some coffee, some cocaine, anything left over from the 80’s.” If the Mr. Robot guy can win an oscar for portraying Freddie Mercury, then Damon Packard can fill his movie with sub-cable actors and claim they’re major celebrities. Julia Roberts crashes on Trent’s couch for six months, Sade rehearses next to Rush, a hitman is sent after Bono, Dick Cheney takes orders from Johnny Carson’s band leader Doc Severinsen, William Friedkin gets mad that nobody wants to see his movie The Guardian, and Janet Jackson is married to one of Trent’s fellow Illuminati members.
This is all aimed at people slightly older than me, who saw Sleeping With the Enemy in theaters and got upset when Rush rapped on a 1991 single. Have I mentioned that it’s long? Every scene goes on for a small eternity, with repetitive dialogue, though sometimes the sound mixer will amuse himself by randomly pitch-shifting an actor, or blatantly dubbing in completely different lines, or an actor’s face will get Black Hole Sunned. The song Ice Ice Baby is being used for mind control, the movie New Jack City sparks riots (the rioters simply chanting “new jack city!”)… even this movie has multiple titles. The whole vibe is cool and unusual, chase scenes through empty Hollywood streets in the middle of the night with 1991 movie posters photoshopped onto the billboards, cheap direct-to-video effects combined with creative production design and an indecipherable story. I’ve long been tempted to rent Packard’s Reflections of Evil, which sounds similarly demented (but is very, very long); there’s also the 1982-set sci-fi feature Foxfur, the hour-long SpaceDisco One, and the twenty minute fake-trailer Dawn of an Evil Millennium, and I should watch all of these – even if they’re “bad,” they’re also exactly the kinds of movies I always aspired to make.
Seems like an extremely low-effort movie, managing to coast by on charisma. So I’m not putting in much effort either – stealing the AV Club’s plot description:
Hanks plays the title character, a divorced Navy veteran and longtime employee of a Walmart-like chain who’s fired because he never went to college, thus can’t advance any further in the company. Rather than filing what seemingly should be an extremely lucrative wrongful-dismissal suit, Hanks follows the advice of the quirky next-door neighbors (Cedric The Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson) and enrolls in a community college. There, he strikes up a friendship with even-quirkier fellow student Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who takes on the duties of a strictly platonic Manic Pixie Dream Girl, giving Hanks a makeover, enlisting him into her “gang” of moped enthusiasts, and encouraging his interest in one of his teachers, a bitter, perpetually hungover English instructor played by Julia Roberts.
This is Hanks the lovable everyman, not Hanks the serious oscar nominee. In fact, if this was the first thing you’d seen with him or Julia Roberts, you’d assume they’re on the same bland caliber as Aston Kutcher and Anne Hathaway. Not much of a comedy, just a lightly entertaining drama – watching the trailer to get screen shots, it contains most of the movie’s jokes. Certainly not offensively bad, but I’m slightly offended at its total lack of rough edges.
Pam Grier is looking good. Grace Gummer looks distractingly like her mother Meryl Streep (it’s weird to see a 24-year-old Streep sitting next to 55-year-old Hanks, like one of those commercials featuring dead movie stars looking young again and trying to sell you a car). Economics professor George Takei was the highlight of the film by a long shot. I already forget who Holmes Osbourne (of The Box) played. And Bryan Cranston (Little Miss Sunshine) was convincing as Roberts’s loser husband.
When I look back on Larry Crowne, I want to think of Wilmer Valderrama on a scooter:
Katy liked it. Glad you liked it, Katy! Sorry if I was grouchy about your movie, and also for what I said about Anne Hathaway.
Story by the HJNTIY team, screenplay by the creator of some show called Army Wives and directed by the dude behind The Other Sister, so there was no guarantee of quality here, but the movie safely occupies the competent, innocuous middle ground between piece-o-shit HJNTIY and surprisingly-good Love Actually. Light and predictably happy, with a cameo from Kristen Schaal of Flight of the Conchords which I enjoyed far too much compared to its surrounding scenes.
So. Ashton Kutcher (Butterfly Effect) runs a flower shop with happily married George Lopez (Sharkboy & Lavagirl). Ashton proposes to career girl Jessica Alba (Love Guru) instead of longtime friend Jennifer Garner (Invention of Lying), who has fallen for a married guy (AK & JG end up together). Jamie Foxx (Miami Vice) is a sportscaster whose boss Kathy Bates (The Waterboy) assigns him to cover valentine’s day, during which he meets Jessica Biel (Elizabethtown) who throws an anti-val-day party every year because she is lonely. Shirley MacLaine (Artists & Models) tells 50-year husband Hector Elizondo (Georgia Rule) that she cheated on him decades ago, but he forgives her at a park screening of Hot Spell (a movie with Shirley and Anthony Quinn which nobody remembers). Patrick Dempsey (McThingy on Katy’s shows) is in the movie but I already can’t remember why. Topher Grace (Spiderman 3) likes Anne Hathaway (Becoming Jane), finds out she works as a kinky phone sex operator but learns to deal with that. Eric Dane (McThingy on Katy’s shows) is a sports star who is gay, managed by Queen Latifah (Stranger Than Fiction) who I think works with Jessica Biel and is Anne Hathaway’s boss and there are other connections that aren’t important. Lastly, Julia Roberts (Duplicity) is on a plane flying home on military leave to see her son for a day, sitting next to Bradley Cooper (Midnight Meat Train) who is gay for Eric Dane. Then there are some 18-year-olds whom we can safely ignore, including a pop idol or two.