Larry Crowne, Tom Hanks, 98 mins (12A)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Michael Bay, 150 mins

Hanks hits rock bottom – and keeps on digging

It's mind-boggling to think that Hollywood's biggest studios turned down the chance to bankroll a comedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and co-written by Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) – at least, it's mind-boggling until you see Larry Crowne. But once you've sat through it, mouth agape, you can only commend the prudence of those movie moguls who left Hanks's own company to do the financing. What becomes mind-boggling, instead, is that a megastar as savvy as he is should have co-written, directed, produced and starred in a film without having the faintest idea of what it's saying.

It starts auspiciously enough, with Hanks as a divorced Navy veteran who's fired from his beloved job as a hypermarket shelf-stacker. The pretext he's given is that he doesn't have any higher education, so he enrolls in a local college where he's 30 years older than any other student. It's a perfectly serviceable and timely premise for a fish-out-of-water comedy, but once Hanks gets to college, the film collapses into a plotless, jokeless shambles. He's shown to be confident and articulate, and yet he takes a class called "The Art Of Informal Remarks". His lecturer, Roberts, appears to despise both her career and her students, and yet she's hailed as "life-changing". When the pair of them start snogging, they're so mismatched that it's creepy: why would Roberts' caustic alcoholic want to get together with Forrest Gump? Stranger still, Hanks studies economics with a sinister George Takei, and he's inducted into a scooter gang which specialises in trips to "vintage stores and junk shops". Were Hanks and Vardalow making up this drivel as they went along? Presumably their script had page numbers printed on it, but otherwise it can't have had many resemblances to a finished screenplay, and Hanks has filmed it with all the pizzazz of a 1970s "Safety At Work" instructional video.

To be fair, it's not quite as jaw-dropping as The Beaver, which was directed by Jodie Foster and which starred Mel Gibson, but it's still quite phenomenal that one month should yield two such calamitous films masterminded by four of the richest, most experienced and Oscar-laden gods of Hollywood. You'd guess, watching Larry Crowne, that Hanks had never been in a film before. Actually, you'd guess that he'd never seen one.



In that company, even Transformers: Dark Of The Moon starts to seem tolerable, although, like the previous two Transformers instalments, it's such a headache that paracetamol should produce a limited-edition tie-in pack. The action sequences are deafening onslaughts, in which time is always slowing down and speeding up, and in which indistinguishable giant robots pirouette weightlessly in the air as if, well, they're not giant robots at all, but computer graphics. But what really makes the film exhausting is that the dialogue scenes are just as frantic. Shia LaBeouf's obnoxious hero shouts and sweats so manically that the shots of him ingesting a sackful of cocaine and benzedrine must have been left on the cutting room floor – and the supporting cast won't be outdone. It's painful to see John Turturro, John Malkovich and Frances McDormand travestying themselves so energetically. You can almost picture Michael Bay, the director, jeering at the film critics in the audience. "Like these actors, do you? Think they're good in the Coen brothers' stuff? Well, look at what they'll do when I'm paying their wages!"

Still, these things are all relative, and T:DOTM is certainly far better than its two predecessors. Its director, Michael Bay, can't stop himself stuffing it with intrusive product placement, lecherous shots of its female cast, and too much swearing for a children's film, but he's cut down on his customary racism, and the number of completely irrelevant characters has been reduced to single figures. More importantly, he's finally realised that, on some level, a Transformers film has to be about robots from outer space fighting each other. For once, there's an alien-invasion plot that just about hangs together, there are goodies and baddies who act in broadly consistent ways, and there's a solid hour of explosions to round things off. I'm not saying you should go to see it, but if you do want to watch a Transformers film, this is the first one that does what it's supposed to.



Next Week:

Demetrios Matheou puts his faith in Trust, the Clive Owen internet thriller

Also Showing: 03/07/2011

The Conspirator (123 mins, 12A)

Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, an idealistic lawyer (James McAvoy) has to defend the mother (Robin Wright) of one of the conspirators, even while his friends and colleagues bay for her blood. For all the waistcoats and mutton-chop sideburns on show, it's obvious that Robert Redford, who directs, has more recent American history on his mind. "We must not sacrifice our sacred rights for the sake of revenge,'' declares McAvoy. It's a respectable restatement of liberal principles, but this feels like an HBO mini-series.

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (90 mins)

This quirky, dragonfly-on-the-wall documentary (above) examines the Japanese love of insects, a love that is apparently bound up with agriculture, environmentalism, Shinto-Buddhism and haikus. It's enlightening, but for a film that goes on about transience and miniaturism, it takes its time.

As If I Am Not There (109 mins, 18)

In this bleak Bosnian war drama, a young woman is raped by her captors in a prison camp and eventually becomes the girlfriend of the camp's captain. Its style is so sparse, and its heroine so blank, that you don't get much more from the film than from that one-sentence summary.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own