Perhaps only the boom-boom-pow theatrics of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which will be making most of the noise (and the box-office bucks) at the multiplex this weekend, could overshadow a new offering from Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Or possibly the mixed reviews for their comedy, "Larry Crowne," are helping create a lower profile for the heavily marketed film. Hanks has taken on directing duties for only the second time in his career (his debut was the 1996 nostalgia trip "That Thing You Do!") and recruited Roberts to join in the action. But the results have been met with outright disdain in some corners, with critics scoffing at a lack of laughs and a bland story line. Yet where others see a milquetoast comedy, many reviewers see a skilled director delivering a warm-hearted summer diversion. Read on for those "Larry Crowne" critiques and more.

The Story
"In 'Larry Crowne,' Hanks plays a nice guy who gets fired from his retail job because he lacks the education to qualify him for a management position. This happens despite his countless awards for Employee of the Month. Larry cashes in his possessions, trades his car for a scooter and decides to enroll in a local community college. As his economics teacher, he draws Dr. Matsutani (George Takei), the only character in the film interesting enough to have a movie made about him. As his public speaking teacher, he gets Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), a character who seems to have drifted over from the auditions for 'Bad Teacher.' ... I watched the movie with all the pleasure I bring to watching bread rise. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy watching bread rise, but it lacks a certain degree of interest. You look forward to it being finished." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The Performances
"The real reason to watch this modestly charming, featherweight bauble is the chemistry between Hanks and Roberts, beloved superstars who make a beautiful pair. 'Larry Crowne' is only their second movie together (after 'Charlie Wilson's War'), but Hanks' noble everyman is an inspired match for Roberts, who plays her character's bitter disappointment with a believable acidity." — Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

The Direction
" 'Larry Crowne' marks Tom Hanks' first work as a director since his delightful 'That Thing You Do!' 15 years ago. And now, as then, the star demonstrates a generous instinct for calm, steady pacing and cleanly framed scenes that acknowledge every character's place in the whole, whether in the classroom, on the streets, or in the working world: When, for example, Larry draws on his Navy skills to take a job as a short-order cook, Hanks the director observes the work of every diner employee with genuine interest. ... It's easy enough to accept the romantic-comedy luck of the two finding each another. It's much tougher, and ultimately useless, to buy everything else about this fairy tale of self-reinvention in a stalled economy." — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

The Laughs
"The script by Mr. Hanks and Nia Vardalos ('My Big Fat Greek Wedding') is one of those wonders of the cinema: You wonder who thought any of this was funny. The fractious scenes between Mercedes and her stay-at-home husband (Bryan Cranston) are painful, although they do give Larry the opportunity to provide a romantic palliative. Larry's adoption by a group of younger students — all of whom ride eco-friendly motor scooters — is cloyingly, comically clueless." — John Anderson, The Wall Street Journal

The Final Word
"I don't know how 'Larry Crowne' is going to do this summer, but I am surprised at the venom some people seem to have mustered towards it. I found it engaging, constantly warm and funny, and very direct in its ambitions. If you want a break from the barrage of spectacle that crams out theater screens every year at this time, 'Larry Crowne" represents a lovely alternative, and I hope people give it a chance. I'd hate to see Hanks wait another fifteen years to direct again." — Drew McWeeny, HitFix

Check out everything we've got on "Larry Crowne."

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