By Christopher Campbell | Spout June 29, 2011 at 9:03AM
Watching the trailer for "Larry Crowne," the new film directed by Tom Hanks and starring he and Julia Roberts, you get the idea that there's something we're not seeing. The marketing must simply be selling this thing to as broad an audience as possible and avoiding the substance, right? Well, the reviews are coming in (Dan will share some thoughts later in the week) and it's apparently actually as insignificant as it looks. What could have been Hanks' motivation other than owing a favor to co-screenwriter Nia Vardalos, who surely made him a ton of money with her surprise hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? Okay, that might be good enough reason, but both he and Roberts are just too big for a little movie like this if there's really nothing to it...
Unlike "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which might be a spectacular mess of sorts but is full of the kind of effects mayhem people will flock to. I'm not saying the blockbuster sequel is better than the lightweight rom-com (which I haven't seen), and currently the reviews are more in favor of "Crowne," but for it is I'm sure it has more worth to its audience. Even as far as rom-coms go, Hanks' name promises something above average. Yet his latest doesn't even seem as necessary as "Joe Versus the Volcano" or "You've Got Mail." I would love to see Hanks in something this summer, even this weekend, so why couldn't he have just co-starred in the new "Transformers"? I can even list at least five reasons his appearance would have been appropriate.
1. It's produced by Steven Spielberg
For 25 years now, beginning with "The Money Pit" in 1986, Hanks and Spielberg have been united in enough film and TV credits to be considered a well-associated collaborative pair. While Hanks narrated last year's "The Pacific" series, which he co-produced with Spiellberg, and he last appeared in front of the camera for the director for the 2008 DNC-intended documentary short "A Timeless Call," the actor hasn't exactly acted for the guy (as director or producer) since 2004's "The Terminal." And that came immediately after "Catch Me If You Can." How long must we wait for the next team-up?
2. It's Gump-ish
As I noted in my lengthy post on "Dark of the Moon," it joins "X-Men: First Class" in what appears to be a summer trend of "Forrest Gump" like "history humping." There are even some spliced-in cameos from JFK, Nixon and Obama in the film, with the latter meeting Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in a very "Gump"-ish manner. The only thing missing is Gump himself, or at least the guy who played him. Of course, if Hanks appeared as Gump in the movie, it wouldn't be any sillier than most of what's on the screen. He could point out how Decepticons are like a box of chocolates, because they all look the same on the surface.
3. It reminds us of "Big"
Remember the scene in "Big" where Josh (Hanks) is in a meeting at the toy company talking about the popularity of Transformers, and he doesn't get his co-worker's prototype for a robot that turns into a skyscraper? If ever there was a good place for a winking moment in "Dark of the Moon" (and the movie winks a lot), it would be during the mayhem in Chicago where the Decepticons are destroying all of the Windy City. If only Bay had included a (relatively small, sure) skyscraper that turns into a robot. Have Hanks voice it. And then have some Autobots disguised as bugs take it down. Could have been the best inside-joke movie reference of all time, or at least outside of a "Toy Story" movie, which goes to show Hanks likely would have been into it.
4. It has to do with the Apollo missions
According to his Wikipedia page, which is as good a reference as I need for something related to "Transformers," Hanks wanted to be an astronaut but wasn't good enough at math. So instead he played one in "Apollo 13" and produced and narrated both the HBO Apollo mission series "From the Earth to the Moon" and the IMAX doc "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D." He also devotes time outside of film and TV credits to projects and organizations advocating and educating on NASA and other space industry matters. I have a feeling he would think the beginning of "Dark of the Moon" to be totally preposterous, if nothing else, but had he been involved somehow he might have lent some less hokey ideas to the movie's incorporation of the Apollo program into its plot. A critic friend claimed that "Dark of the Moon" has the best cameo since "Zombieland," which is as ridiculous a statement as any in the movie. He was referring to Buzz Aldrin, who will show up in anything, from "30 Rock" to "Top Chef," these days. Now, if Hanks had shown up for a secret cameo (maybe as an elderly Jim Lovell, just because?), that would have actually been the best cameo since "Zombieland."
5. It's already got a slew of Coen Brothers movie actors
I've already heard from enough people about how fun it would have been had Joel and Ethan Coen been involved somehow with "Dark of the Moon." Why? Because the sequel's supporting cast includes Coen movie regulars John Turturro and Frances McDormand (aka Mrs. Joel Coen) and one-time Coen-cast actor John Malkovich. And I could have sworn one of the little Gremlins-meets-Beetlejuice "pet" robots, either Wheelie or Brains, was voiced by Steve Buscemi. Apparently not, but he at least sounds enough like Buscemi to add to the Coen ensemble feel, anyway. Why didn't they include more, if we're all going to make the connection anyway? Given that this is a Michael Bay movie, Nic Cage cameo would have been excellent. And the real Buscemi, Peter Stormare and Billy Bob Thornton, who all worked with Bay on "Armageddon." Anyone for some Jeff Bridges, George Clooney or John Goodman in a "Transformers" movie? Of course, Hanks is another, though like Malkovich he's not a Coen regular, having only starred in the duo's "The Ladykillers" remake. It's enough that he'd fit right in with the others.
Now that "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" has opened, it might seem too late to remedy this glaring missed opportunity for at least a great cameo appearance. But that's only the case because recalling all the prints would be too expensive. Otherwise, Hanks could be easily and quickly digitally inserted anywhere in the movie. Maybe for the DVD?