Call it the curse of Oscar-winning fame, but pairing Tom Hanks with Julia Roberts gives rise to great expectations -- which are dashed in this mediocre romantic comedy.

Even though he was awarded Employee of the Month nine times, conscientious Larry Crowne (Hanks) loses his job at U-Mart (think Wal-Mart) because his lack of a college education prevents him from climbing up the corporate ladder. Divorced and deeply in debt, appeals to his local banker (Rita Wilson) fall on deaf ears. As his house goes into foreclosure, he sells everything, including his gas-guzzling SUV, and buys a motor scooter from tag-sale enthusiast neighbors (Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson), who suggest that he enroll at East Valley Community College.

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Encouraged to take Speech #217 -- "The Art of Informal Remarks" -- at 8 a.m., he meets Mercedes Tainot (Roberts), an embittered English teacher who wears dark glasses to disguise her morning hangovers. Married to porn-loving deadbeat Dean (Brian Cranston), Mercedes starts mixing booze in the blender the minute she gets home. Although she's wary at first, Larry's earnest charm eventually wins her over. Meanwhile, he's also taking Economics 1, taught by George Takei ("Star Trek"), and making friends with free-spirited Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who's determined to give Larry a complete make-over, sparking jealousy from her biker boyfriend (Wilmer Valderrama).

Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as the bland, middle-aged Everyman, downsized and desperate after spending 20 years as a Navy cook, but beautiful Julia Roberts is not believable as a wife who's rejected just because her breasts aren't big enough. (Coincidentally, Cameron Diaz suffered this same fate in "Bad Teacher.")

So the primary problem rests with Hanks' and Nia Vardalos' ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") flaccid, overly generalized, feel-good script, which totally lacks drama, plus it's Tom Hanks' first stab at directing since "That Thing You Do" (1996). Supposedly, Hanks and Roberts so enjoyed working together in "Charlie Wilson's War" that she signed on immediately.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Larry Crowne" is a schmaltzy 6. It's lightweight fluff that quickly fades.