Capsule reviews: 'Transformers, 'Larry Crowne'

Associated Press
In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures, Julia Roberts, left, and Tom Hanks are shown in a scene from "Larry Crowne." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Bruce Talamon)
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"Larry Crowne" — You can have two of the most likable, bankable stars on the planet together, but strong writing is crucial to making them shine. Even the combined, blinding brilliance of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts cannot salvage the corny, contrived script — which Hanks, who also directed the film, co-wrote. His longtime friend Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") was his collaborator, and the shticky nature of her style is just overpowering. Main characters behave in unbelievable ways and say just the right poignant things at just the right times, while supporting players are relegated to one-note roles that are straight out of a sitcom. But the main problem is that Hanks is as bland as the film's title. Larry Crowne undergoes a major life change when he finds himself downsized out of his job at a behemoth superstore; middle-aged and divorced, he decides it's finally time to go to college. But there's not much momentum, and it's hard to get a handle on who he is beyond his generically pleasant demeanor, so his transformation lacks the punch it should have had by comparison. Roberts co-stars as the professor who becomes Larry's unlikely love interest, while Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the impossibly gorgeous fellow student who gives him a makeover. PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content. 98 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Monte Carlo" — The French Riviera, that golden-hued playground of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, here gets taken over by teenyboppers. In her biggest role yet, Disney Channel star and pop singer Selena Gomez plays Grace, a Texas 18-year-old who has long dreamed of visiting Paris. Traveling with her best friend (Katie Cassidy) and stepsister (Leighton Meester), their visit to the French capital is a bust. But when a British heiress look-alike (also played by Gomez) turns up, Grace impersonates her and earns a private-jet trip to Monte Carlo the next day. In Monaco, the scheme mostly leads to romance and sappy self-discovery. Impersonating a famous heiress, one would think, might lead to numerous comical situations. But this isn't "Some Like it Hot"; "Monte Carlo" likes it lukewarm. Gomez, while endearingly earnest, doesn't command the screen, and Meester and Cassidy ultimately carry the movie. Nevertheless, director Thomas Bezucha ("The Family Stone"), production designer Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski and composer Michael Giacchino ("Up," ''Super 8") do exceptionally well in giving the limp material a first-rate production. Giacchino's graceful work is like a B-side to his superb score to "Ratatouille." PG for brief mild language. 108 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Terri" — Jacob Wysocki makes his subtly confident film debut as a misfit teen who's comfortable in his own skin — even though there's a lot of it. Heavyset, soft-spoken and reserved, he makes the same solitary trek to school each day in his pajamas — "They're just comfortable on me," he reasons — but barely makes much of an impression on anyone once he gets there, except to serve as a target of torment. What's fascinating about director Azazel Jacobs' quietly beautiful film, though, is that it never condescends to Terri, never pities him, because Terri doesn't pity himself. He is who he is: no-nonsense, observant and smarter than he looks. He goes about his days, living in a cluttered home with his aging uncle (Creed Bratton) who's showing early signs of Alzheimer's. John C. Reilly is versatile as always as the affable high school vice principal who takes Terri under his wing, while Bridger Zadina and Olivia Crocicchia are both extremely natural as the fellow students with whom Terri forges a sweet, unexpected bond. R for sexual content, language, some drug and alcohol use, all involving teens. 105 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" — Director Michael Bay serves up another loud, long, bruising and wearisome onslaught of giant, shape-shifting robots. Bay tries to inject more flesh-and-blood consequence this time, but the human element arises largely from archival footage involving the 1960s moon race, along with images that may disturb younger kids as screaming, scrambling humans are vaporized by the 'bots like insects in a bug zapper. In 3-D, too, so you get to wear those clunky glasses for the franchise's longest movie yet. Puny humans Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson again are caught up in the war between benevolent Autobots and evil Decepticons, joined by new cast members Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Patrick Dempsey. Leonard Nimoy provides the voice of an Autobot elder, his age-old, gravelly vocals proving the most human element in the movie. The visuals are dazzling, but Bay lets the battles grind on so long that the motion and noise turns numbing. PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo. 154 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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