Tom Hanks: Stealth Comedy Legend

Why the video of Hanks dancing isn't as surprising as the Web thinks it is

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People aren't entirely sure what to make of this new clip of Tom Hanks dancing with weather lady Chiquinquira Delgado while promoting his new movie Larry Crowne today on the Univision morning show Despierta America. Writing at Slate's Brow Beat blog, Nina Shen Rastogi praised the two-time Oscar winner's ability to "pull off the old mime-going-down-the-stairs bit with such aplomb." Less charitable was Matt Cherrete at Gawker, who called the performance "inexplicable."
Our take: it's really only inexplicable if you discount every movie Hanks made prior to 1990, when he took the lead in the ill-fated (but very prestigious) adaptation of Bonfire of the Vanities. Before then, all he did was make goofy, broad comedies of varying quality. In the opinion of the Atlantic Wire bullpen, several of these--think Bachelor PartyThe Burbs, A League of Their Own, Turner and Hooch, Splash, and Volunteers--are minor classics of the genre.

To be fair, Hanks deserves some of the blame (or credit) for becoming a Serious Actor at the expense of his career as a Serious Goofball. It didn't help that he was broad and weird in his return to comedy in the Coen Brothers' 2004 remake of The Ladykillers, and that his once-frequent appearances on Saturday Night Live have grown more and more sporadic. (He hosted five times from 1985 through 1990, but has only hosted just three times since then, including last year's season finale.)

If anyone has doubts about Hanks's comedic side, we can't recommend the "Five Timers Club" opening from the December 17, 1990 episode of Saturday Night Live highly enough. In retrospect, it was the end of an era.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.