Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 14 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 14

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LARRY CROWNE Larry Crowne opens with Tom Hanks' title character taking so much grinning-idiot pleasure in his job at a retail box store (he's even cheerful when wiping a kid's vomit off the mechanical horse out front) that we momentarily suspect the actor has elected to revive Forrest Gump in an unauthorized sequel. But no, Larry Crowne is just that kind of guy — jovial, hardworking, uncomplaining — which makes it a shocker (at least to him) when he's downsized by a group of corporate caricatures (in a wretched scene played partly for nonexistent laughs) who state that his lack of education makes him expendable in modern-day America. After failing to land another job, Larry, only slightly less square than Napoleon Dynamite, decides to go back to school, only it was a helluva lot more fun when Rodney's Dangerfield's Thornton Melon chose this route 25 years ago. Larry's escapades at the local community college are, like practically everything else in this film, barely perfunctory as narrative and wholly lacking in any sort of dramatic conflict. Positioned as a picture about how it's possible to still succeed in a country that's been destroyed by rising unemployment rates and soaring gasoline prices, Larry Crowne, co-written by Hanks and My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos, actually has little basis in reality, with Hanks' "don't worry, be happy" protagonist sailing from one existential uptick after another. Julia Roberts appears as Larry's unhappy teacher, but like everyone else in Larry Crowne, her character is only on hand to lavish praise on a dull character who hardly deserves his own motion picture. *1/2

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Stating that Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's best film in over a decade really doesn't mean anything at all, considering that most of his output since the previous century has consisted of such clunkers as Hollywood Ending and Cassandra's Dream. His last picture, 2010's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, even managed to sneak onto my year-end "10 Worst" list, so color me stunned that Midnight in Paris exudes both charm and cleverness in equal measure. Owen Wilson, who proves to be a natural fit for Allen, plays a burned-out screenwriter named Gil, who appears to be more in love with Paris than with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams). And why not? Inez is pushy, self-centered and spoiled, while the French capital (which they're visiting) is warm, inviting and deeply romantic. While Inez spends time with a pompous acquaintance (a funny Michael Sheen), Gil walks the city streets and soaks up the culture. Employing a bit of leftover fairy dust from his 1985 gem The Purple Rose of Cairo, Allen soon has his leading man magically transported back to the 1920s, where he hobnobs with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston, Thor's Loki), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) and falls for Pablo Picasso's beautiful mistress, Adriana (an enchanting Marion Cotillard). Despite making some salient points about the manner in which people belittle their own era while longing for a simpler, more innocent time (something which of course has never existed), Midnight in Paris is a lightweight bauble from Allen, and it provides few of the hearty laughs that propelled many of his past classics. But it's nevertheless an irresistible bauble, and a goofy, appreciative smile remained plastered on my face throughout the course of its tragically brief 95 minutes. ***


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