So for many of us (who are we kidding all of us), Tom Hanks can never seem to do wrong. He has such a lovable charisma that even if he were to play the antagonist in a film, which is extremely unlikely, the audience would probably root for him more than the leads. When you look at his back catalogue it is hard to find a movie that was a genuine stinker. Even the likes of The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) which was poorly received by critics, had very little negativity towards Hanks. So where does that leave us with A Hologram for the King (2016)?
Alan Clay (Hanks) is a washed-up businessman. Having had a bad couple of years thanks to the great recession, he is responsible for vast lay-offs in his old business, is going through a bitter divorce and struggles to pay for his daughters’ college tuition fees. In an attempt to earn some big money, he travels to Saudi Arabia in the hopes of selling a telecommunications device, which projects a hologram, to the King himself. Whilst on his travels, Alan becomes friends with a young driver named Yousef (Alexander Black), discovers a very nasty lump near his spine, and begins to develop feelings for his doctor Zahra (Sarita Choudhury).
One of the main issues that I had with the film was that at several moments Hanks’ character was trying to seem like an almost unlikeable individual. His character generally tends to be nice, but some moments do try to make him rude and slightly obnoxious as his situation tends to get worse. Usually you could relate to his grumpy mood. But seeing as this is Tom Hanks, it is really hard to see him in any negative light.
Although in saying that I did enjoy the film. There was many light-hearted moments, moments of genuine human emotion, a certain level of humour provided by his driver Yousef, all of the ingredients were there to make the film an interesting watch. Not being too familiar with the novel however, the setup of a businessman meeting the King in the hopes of earning a living again was intriguing and should have made for some entertaining storytelling. And although there are themes and subjects such as culture clashes and class structures, at times they just seem to fall flat in moments of mediocrity.
So is it a bad film? Absolutely not, it was an interesting idea, and I laughed several times throughout, and I did feel bad for Alan on several occasions. But the problem is, the film is just far too average. It is definitely not the worst Tom Hanks movie, but it is far from his best. I feel you may walk away with some satisfaction, but a cloud of disappointment may hang over you as you leave.