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larry-crowne“Larry Crowne” is a boomer comedy. Squarely aimed at audiences with memories long enough to remember when gas only cost 54 cents a litre, none of your neighbors had foreclosure signs on their front lawns and Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts ruled the box office.

Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks, who also directs), the man not the movie, is the kind of guy proud to wear his My Name Is tag. That is, until the day U Mart downsizes him because he doesn’t have a college education. Divorced and stuck with a house that isn’t worth what he owes on it he turns his life around by going back to school and getting an education in life and love from teacher Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts).

“Larry Crowne” has an old fashioned feel to it, like a nineties sitcom updated with references from the 2000s. There’s something reassuring about seeing old pros Hanks and Roberts effortlessly glide through threw this like hot knives through butter, but occasionally the material feels a bit out of date.

Larry’s classmate, played by the charismatic Gugu Mbatha-Raw, takes great pains to update his look, but unfortunately her efforts didn’t extend to the script. He may start wearing his shirts untucked and show up at school with a jaunty scarf around his neck, but when a blogger is the villain of the piece and facebook and twitter are blamed for running kid’s attention spans (really grandpa?) you get a story that feels out of step in 2011.

Tom Hanks has been playing the “Da Vinci Code’s” oh-so-serious iconology professor Robert Langdon for so long now it’s easy to forget that he was once known as an accomplished comedic actor. Here he turns the dial back to movies like “Joe and the Volcano” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” playing a likeable character you want to root for. He brings the funny but also oozes an everyman charm that makes it hard not to get onside with the character.

The combination of Hanks and Roberts (yes, she does have her trademarked laughing scene), backed by a talented, quirky and eclectic supporting cast including Cedric the Entertainer, George Takei, Pam Grier and Bryan Cranston (who is actually wasted here as Julia’s one-note porn loving husband), elevates what might have been a simple sitcom premise into something that is occasionally touching and more often than not sweetly funny.

“Larry Crowne” understands its audience. It’s an uplifting comedy about middle age, brave enough to tackle modern problems like downsizing and foreclosure, but non-challenging enough to weave all the bad stuff into a pseudo romantic comedy that makes great use of its cast. It’s timely enough, but its sunny “it’s never too late to change your life” outlook is pure Hollywood.

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