Attention, Nia Vardalos: Step away from Tom Hanks.

Attention, Nia Vardalos: Step away from Tom Hanks.

Though she's B-list at best, it's clear from "Larry Crowne" that the creator of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and a few other awful rom-coms has the power to take down a bona fide movie star. Vardalos' pairing with Hanks as co-writer of his second directorial effort brings out the worst in both - her knack for synthetic storytelling and his usually restrained tendency toward pandering.

Hanks also plays Larry, a nice, bland guy who enrolls in community college after being downsized by a big-box retailer. He makes fast friends on campus with a pack of scooter-riding, movie-fake hipsters and eventually defrosts Julia Roberts, a disillusioned professor who drowns her career woes and failing marriage in margaritas.

As Roberts' husband, Bryan Cranston is one of several talented cast members wasted by one-dimensional character development. Hanks and Roberts rise above through genuine likability. But because everything else in the movie is drenched in saccharine sweetness, it's a minor victory.