The movie was made and marketed toward an older audience, but Larry Crowne may have proven this holiday weekend how limited that boomer audience actually is, bringing in just $15.7 million in its opening days. By no means is that a total to scoff at, yet with huge stars like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in the lead roles, it could serve as another unwelcome, but predictable, wake-up call for Hollywood. "Star-driven movies seem to be an extinct species as young audiences world-wide obsess over big-concept action movies and digital extravaganzas. The film factories have forgotten how to mobilize their star talent," Peter Bart wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week. Still, some critics are pointing to Hanks in particular - he also directed Crowne - as the reason for the film's paltry opening. What did he do wrong?
Hanks is a falling star: Look, "the truth is that he has been floundering for years and had to finance Larry Crowne (which he co-wrote with My Big Fat One Hit Wondergirl Nia Vardalos) himself," says Lyyn Crosbie in The Globe and Mail. "Is Hanks' fall from grace heart-rending? Define grace: He is abhorrent in his serious films, cloying in his chick flicks and Woody is a jerk. He is now merely miscast."
Hollywood has changed: "As a marketing tool, stars are a relic. Sure, it helps to have talented performers like Hanks and Roberts if you're going to tell a complicated story about the inner lives of two middle-aged people rebooting their lives. But who wants to see glamourous Hollywood icons doing that? asks Gary Susman at Moviefone. "Let Hanks chase down more ecclesiastical mysteries as Robert Langdon, let Roberts play another spunky Cinderella with big dreams - the kind of familiar, escapist, broad-stroke concepts their fans love - and they'll be box office royals again."
He's still good, with the right roles: Hanks "became a box-office draw because he was a charming if innocuous presence, the regular guy we could all identify with. But when you look at America's favorite movies circa 2011, they're populated with very different, and decidedly less Everyman, types," says Steven Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times. But his upcoming movies at least will allow him to "revert to his typical mermaid-loving, JFK-amusing, volleyball-addressing outlandishness. Which maybe -- but only maybe -- will make him a box-office draw again."
If Hanks doesn't return to us, he'll be missed: "I'm perfectly fine with saying there's never going to be another Tom Hanks. He's a national treasure, and he still has a slate of interesting projects on the way, like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Cloud Atlas," says Jeff Labrecque at Entertainment Weekly. "But someone has to fill the void that once belonged to him, the reliable, likable thirtysomething guy-next-door whose name above the marquee means something. Does anyone have a prayer of filling those shoes?"
Follow Danny Groner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DannyGroner