Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Movie Reviews: Crowned in Monte Carlo

Larry Crowne movie poster, image property of Universal Pictures.
Monte Carlo movie poster, image property of Fox 2000 Pictures.
After a morning sanding the deck outside in our cut-off shorts and grubby t-shirts, we decided to take a break and see a movie or two.  All of the male testosterone involved with such manual labor lent itself perfectly to an afternoon of chick flicks, wouldn’t you agree?  Well, we thought so.  We showered and dressed and went to see Larry Crowne and Monte Carlo, leaving Transformers for another day.  Unfortunately, neither movie was particularly phenomenal…

Larry Crowne AVERAGE

Although Larry Crowne looked so promising in the trailer, it turned out to be a bit of a let-down.  It’s a superficial feel-good movie which instead of developing its characters decided to feature ample scooter-riding montages.  A shame since it was co-written, produced, and directed by Tom Hanks himself.

Tom Hanks stars as Larry Crowne, a middle-aged man working at a large department store called U-Mart.  Although he is often Employee-of-the-Month, Crowne is fired because he didn’t go to college.  Recently divorced and now without a job, his finances are in ruins.  He begins to sell all of his things, go into foreclosure, and enroll in the local community college.

There he meets a random group of students, one of which is Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who takes it upon herself to reinvent Larry.  She renames him Lance Corona, initiates him into her scooter gang—who for some reason snap  their fingers as if they are about to rumble with the Sharks and the Jets from West Side Story—and gives him a makeover from head to toe.  There’s nothing romantic between Larry and Talia though, in fact Larry instantly has a crush on his Public Speaking teacher Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) who has lost her passion for teaching and is in a horrible marriage.

Although Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are both very enjoyable to watch and often have really funny moments, the problem with Larry Crowne is that the two are hardly on screen at the same time.  From the trailers you see Larry give her a ride on his scooter and you see them share a kiss on her porch and you think to yourself that they obviously must have a lot of interactions leading up to that lovely moment.  Well, they don’t.  That is their entire relationship.  That’s it.  Apart from him sitting in her classroom, that is the only time they ever do anything together.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Also, the movie ends with Larry saying that Ms. Tainot’s class changed his life, but truth is, we never actually saw that either!  Just like the two characters fall for each other without falling for each other, Larry’s life is changed by this miraculous teacher without her ever being a miraculous teacher.  In fact, none of the big changes in his life—like getting a new job at the diner—have anything to do with his Public Speaking class.

Monte Carlo AVERAGE

Disney darling Selena Gomez stars as a recent high school graduate named Grace.  She and her friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) have been saving up money to go on a trip to Paris.  Her parents think it would be a great idea if her stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester) went along, so Grace and Emma begrudgingly bring her with them.  Needless to say by movie’s end the three of them are the best of friends.  Saw that one coming.

While in Paris, Grace is mistaken for a famous heiress named Cordelia Winthrop Scott because there is an uncanny resemblance.  Perhaps because Cordelia is also played by Selena Gomez.  Just a guess.  Anyway, the three girls are now being whisked away to Monte Carlo to enjoy a week of fancy parties, charity auctions and polo-playing.  Not to mention a beautiful hotel suite filled with all of Cordelia’s couture gowns, shoes and jewels.  Film critic Roger Ebert compared this movie to Sex and the City without all the sex.  And with the high fashion and multiple romances that ensue, I can see where he gets that idea.

Grace of course falls for a gorgeous French guy named Theo (Pierre Boulanger), but—oh no!—he thinks she’s Cordelia.  Her biggest drama in the movie is not knowing how to tell him who she really is.  We’ve seen that a hundred times before.  Anybody remember Hilary Duff’s The Lizzie McGuire movie?  Same thing.  Just swap out France for Italy.

However, the other two girls’ storylines were a bit more interesting.  Meg is struggling with the recent death of her mother, and the Australian named Riley (Luke Bracey) who she meets is able to bring her out of her shell to enjoy life again.  Meanwhile Emma is dining with princes on private yachts, but soon realizes that those things aren’t for her.  She comes to appreciate her small town boyfriend Owen (Cory Monteith) who she fought with before leaving on the trip.

For a movie targeted at tween girls, I thought Monte Carlo was decent and at times pretty funny.  I think if they had eliminated the whole mistaken identity aspect of the movie and instead made it about three girls simply enjoying a European vacation, it would have been loads better.

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