Film review

Larry Crowne (12A)/Holy Rollers (15)

IF Harry Potter fever is getting a bit too much, there are a couple of films still in cinemas that don’t feature wizards, broomsticks or owls.

Released a couple of weeks ago, Larry Crowne is the second film to be written and directed by Tom Hanks.

His first, That Thing You Do, was over 10 years ago and told the story of a teenage band making it big in 1960s America.

Hanks had a small part in it, but this time round he takes centre stage.

He plays the Larry of the title, a divorced 40-something supermarket worker who suddenly finds himself out of a job due to his lack of qualifications.

He’ll never get promoted unless he goes to college. So he throws himself into higher education, taking classes on economics and public speaking.

Larry discovers a new lease of life, making friends with scooter-driving hipsters, getting a make-over and developing a crush on his jaded teacher, Mercedes (Julia Roberts).

She’s dealing with a lack of interest in her classes and a sleazy, work-shy husband. Soon, she gives slime-ball hubby the heave-ho and comes round to Larry’s sweet-natured charm.

Hanks is perfect as Larry, a man down on his luck but never down on life.

He and co-writer Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) have clearly played to his strengths. Nobody does the American good guy quite like Hanks. Roberts, too, is a perfect fit for her character.

If it had just been those two in it, and a bit of a meatier story, it would have been fine. But there are, in the supporting cast, some of the most irritating people I’ve ever seen in a film.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (she played Martha’s sister in Doctor Who) is over-doing it as free-spirit Talia, and Wilmer Valderrama (probably best known for going out with teenage popstars) as her boyfriend has all the charisma of a cabbage.

Let’s hope they’re edited out of the DVD version.

ALSO released recently is Holy Rollers. Based on true events, it follows Sam, a young Orthodox Jew in 1990’s New York who becomes a drug smuggler.

Sam is a hard-working, devout young man from a humble home in Brooklyn. He’s ready to enter an arranged marriage and become a rabbi. But the girl’s family has second thoughts, and they seek another husband.

Thinking it’s because he doesn’t have enough money, Sam agrees to help his neighbour Yosef to import ‘medicine’ for extra cash.

Little does Sam know that what he has hidden in his suitcase on the flight home from Amsterdam is ecstasy.

But even when he does find out that he’s a drug mule, he sees a business opportunity and continues smuggling. Before he knows it, he’s losing his faith, family and friends.

As Sam, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) makes it all a bit too intense for my liking, even if the film is only an hour and a half long.

But Justin Bartha (The Hangover) as wayward Yosef is a captivating screen presence and manages to nullify Eisenberg’s overly earnest performance.

Holy Rollers is a fascinating look into the lives of Hasidic Jews in America, and demonstrates that a religious upbringing doesn’t always mean you can tell the difference between wrong and right.