Bil’s rating (out of 5): 0.5. USA, 2011. Universal Pictures, Vendome Pictures, StudioCanal, Playtone Productions, Summit Entertainment. Screenplay by Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos. Cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. Produced by Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks. Music by James Newton Howard. Production Design by Victor Kempster. Costume Design by Albert Wolsky. Film Editing by Alan Cody.
A film so disastrous it has to be seen to be believed. Tom Hanks is a longtime employee at a Walmart-like store who is devastated when he gets fired due to downsizing, told that his lack of a college education is the reason why he has not been prioritized above employees with less experience than himself. In need of a life turnaround, particularly since he is in deep debt at the bank and has to liquidate assets quickly, he enrolls in community college and is convinced to take a speech therapy class with a burned out English teacher (Julia Roberts) who encourages her students to care about public speaking while she herself can barely care about her job. The two of them discover a mutual sympathy as classes progress, while along the way he develops a friendship with a young student (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who teaches him how to dress and do his hair (the movie wants us to think she’s quirky, she’s actually obnoxious) and Roberts deals with her crumbling marriage to an internet porn addict (Bryan Cranston, monotonous as always). Terrible performances and even worse writing (script by Hanks and My Big Fat Greek Wedding star Nia Vardalos) are combined with completely inept direction that puts the movie’s tone all over the map: life affirming, feel-good naturalism is combined with silly caricature (Cedric the Entertainer as the neighbor who has a yard sale every single day?) and failed attempts at darkness (Cranston’s scenes make the least amount of sense). Then there is the most amazing element, which is that Roberts is so smooth and fun that she seems to exist in a protected bubble; the movie does not rely on her enough to say that she saves it, but it’s pretty impressive that while Hanks is doing some of the worst acting in his life, she manages to get through this mess without getting a drop of shit on her.