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A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING: 2 STARS. “like two movies spliced to form one.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 12.04.04 PM“A Hologram for the King” is a crappy title. Doesn’t mean much. Sounds like it could be a sci-fi film or a high-tech Elvis Presley tribute. To really sum up the feel of the new Tom Hanks film I’d suggest calling it “How Tommy Got his Groove Back.”

Hanks plays Alan Clay, a put-up middle manager with a testy ex-wife and unhappy boss. He’s a boy wonder whose later years have not been so wonderful, an older man who finds himself beaten down by the corporate system he helped create. The opportunity to pitch an IT system for a new Saudi Arabian city offers up a way out of his financial, personal and career woes, but when he arrives in the Arab state he discovers there are no easy answers to his problems. He clashes with Saudi culture but ultimately find connections with people, including his reckless driver (Alexander Black) and compassionate doctor (Sarita Choudhury).

“A Hologram for the King” is an aimless, meandering movie that isn’t so much about being a fish out of water is as it is about one man getting his mojo back. When we first meet Alan he has lost direction. His ability to make complicated situations go smoothly has evaporated and he has a weird lump on his back that may or may not be cancer. He’s a sad sack with a permanent grin plastered on his face, the kind of loveable loser Hanks can play in his sleep. The actor has entered the Spencer Tracy phase of his career; he’s effortlessly likeable and doesn’t bump into the furniture.

Too bad he’s wasted in a tragicomic movie that can’t decide if it wants to make a statement about how American greed drove industry offshore or about Arab culture or about an aging yuppie facing emasculation and mortality. It’s all over the place and Hanks does his best to ground it but ultimately “A Hologram for the King” feels like two or more movies spliced together to form one whole.

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