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Big leads go down with Crowne, Trigun is double-barreled Anime

In Larry Crowne , Tom Hanks plays a character who’s a great guy to begin with, and becomes an even greater guy. That Hanks also produced, directed and co-wrote the film might smack of rampant egotism, but Hanks is such a likable presence that it doesn’t feel that way.

Unfortunately, everything else about Larry Crowne feels so synthetic, contrived and phony that it smacks of misguided failure more than anything else. This is the sort of glib “feelgood” movie that pushes every conceivable button to elicit that reaction, and does so with such abandon that by the end, the entire point — whatever it may have been — is long gone.

Having lost his job because he doesn’t have a college degree, our hero — that would be Larry Crowne, played by Hanks — decides to enroll in a community college, all the while reassessing his life and career plan. Undergoing a not-dissimilar arc is Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), one of Larry’s new teachers, who’s in the midst of her own version of a mid-life crisis.

Playing a bedraggled cynic is hardly Roberts’ specialty. Nor, given an embarrassing sequence here, is playing drunk scenes. There is little doubt that she and her star pupil will end up in a climactic clinch, but for some reason Mercedes has been given a husband

(Bryan Cranston) so transparently loutish that their screen relationship is clearly, painfully based less on reality than on the (uninspired) imagination of the script, penned by Hanks and My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s Nia Vardalos. The husband could have been eliminated, Mercedes could have simply been divorced from the start and therefore depressed, and it wouldn’t have affected the overall film whatsoever, except perhaps to improve it.

Neither Hanks or Roberts is coasting through the proceedings here, but nor do those proceedings tax their abilities much. There’s so little tension or surprise in the film that the second half goes almost completely slack, rolling through one scene after another until getting to that all-important last one.

The cheerful supporting cast includes Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Pam Grier, Rita Wilson (Mrs. Hanks), Wilmer Valderrama, Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter, and a dead ringer for Mom) and Rami Malek (as Larry’s goofiest classmate), but only George Takei makes a solid impression as an imperious economics professor. Characters come and go, seemingly at random and usually for a punchline, and most of them are so absurdly nice (too nice, actually) that they lack edge or distinction or even credibility.

And so it is with Larry Crowne. Hey, at least it’s not in 3-D. But it’s barely 2-D.

Opening Friday, Trigun: Badlands Rumble is director Satoshi Nishimura’s bigscreen adaptation of a popular ’90s comicbook and TV series in Japan.

For aficionados of anime — and that’s precisely the intended audience here — Trigun delivers all the action and spectacle they could possibly desire. It’s often spectacularly silly, but the emphasis is on spectacular (usually). Within the first 10 minutes, one character remarks “Isn’t that overkill?” Indeed it is, and it’s only just beginning, as this fast-moving smorgasbord of sciencefiction and Western trappings pits grizzled outlaw Gasback (voiced by Tsutomu Isobe) against perhaps the most feared man in this or any other galaxy — the gunslinger known as Vash the Stampede (voiced by Masaya Onosake). The spiky-haired, perpetually grinning Vash seems more galactic gadfly than the interstellar menace nicknamed “The Humanoid Typhoon,” but looks can be deceiving.

The violence is loud and frequent, and exaggerated to a level of giddiness not unlike the spaghetti Westerns of yesteryear, but Trigun is far less bloody than might be expected. The characters are likewise exaggerated, screaming, shouting, whining and even grunting with overemphasis. Perhaps that’s the only way to be heard above the din, which climaxes in a rip-snorting car chase right out of Mad Max.

Not for a moment is any of this to be taken seriously. It’s to be laughed at and laughed with — and loudly on both counts. In a summer filled with mindless cinematic excursions, Trigon enters the fray with both guns blazing. (In Japanese with English subtitles)

Log onto YesWeekly.com — click on the “Flicks” section. Then go to “What’s Showing”

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