Heartland Hanks: ‘Man Called Otto’ Scores with Red States

Film's appeal to 'flyover country,' old-school skills, sparks word-of-mouth hit

Tom Hanks is no longer a box office draw in the traditional sense.

Hanks’ recent work either debuted on streaming platforms (“Greyhound,” “Finch”), drew withering reviews (“Pinocchio”) or failed to draw a crowd in theaters (“News of the World”).

That’s no slight against the two-time Oscar winner. Most stars today can’t guarantee box office success.

Hanks’ latest film, “A Man Called Otto,” is reversing that trend. The film opened in just a few theaters late last year but slowly ramped up its screen total. And the results are proving to be impressive.

It grossed $15.3 million in its third–weekend wide expansion over the four-day MLK weekend, well surpassing its $8M projection.

That’s stunning given the recent failures of more highly regarded dramas like “The Fabelmans,” “Tar” and “Till.”

A MAN CALLED OTTO - Official Trailer (HD)

“Otto” casts Hanks as Otto Anderson, a retiree considering suicide following the death of his wife. His mood lightens after meeting his new neighbors, a Mexican family who need Otto’s particular set of life skills.

Otto can drive a stick-shift car, fix things around the house and perform tasks today’s Millennials can only dream of tackling.


Critics haven’t saved “Otto” from box office doom. The film sports a fine but hardly spectacular 69 percent “fresh” rating, with many reviewers (this one included) panning the film. General audiences adore the film, though, giving it a 97 percent tally at Rotten Tomatoes.

Several left-leaning news outlets are crediting the film’s connection with Heartland audiences as the movie’s “It” factor.

“There’s 3,000 miles between Los Angeles and New York City, and Hollywood should start making movies for them!” one veteran producer screamed to me at a recent awards-season event…

True, we’ve had movies like Top Gun: Maverick and American Sniper that have played to the heartland, but there’s the belief more movies catering to Middle America are needed to help the box office surge back to pre-Covid levels, particularly with a greater proportion of mid-grossing titles.

Variety, no ally of Heartland values, shared a similar sentiment regarding the film’s box office haul. The site reports that the film’s studio sensed its red-state potential and leaned into it.

But in its second weekend, Sony heavily concentrated on cinemas in the heartland as it brought the film to 637 venues, believing the heartfelt story would resonate deeply across the country, not just on the coasts. By that Sunday, “Otto” had earned $3.76 million and placed fourth on domestic box office charts despite playing in significantly fewer theaters than its competitors.

Hanks’ character is a throwback in more ways than one. Yet the film doesn’t discard or diminish him. “Otto” is a comeback story, following a curmudgeon who grows beyond his crusty exterior. And it’s his knack for fixing what needs to be fixed which opens the door to his salvation.

That’s proving to be catnip for audiences. And Hanks, often called this generation’s Jimmy Stewart, is the right man for the job.


  1. Hanks is incredible,but I found the movie my.name is”Otto” very depressing. I prefer to feel good after I see a movie

  2. Human nature turned human kindness. Bad mood doesn’t necessarily a bad human make. Though the references to Clint’s “Walter” and the theme of his “Grand Torino” could be viewed as vaguely similar, I think Torino had unexpected events. Hanks doesn’t disappoint in his portrayal of “Otto” and I recommend this one, especially to Hanks fans. There could also be an aspect of the story and Otto that many can relate, wether it be an old cramugin in your midst, or perhaps relating to Otto’s struggles. It’s an endearingly funny story.

  3. I’ve not been inclined to watch much of anything “new” (made since 2018) but I might give this one a shot – when it’s on streaming or if a local theatre decides to have a DAYTIME Showing for MATURE ADULTS ONLY!! And that FLAT OUT LIE – “you’re not taking over my bed” – get a cat and find out!!

    1. I can’t agree. As with John Wayne or Al Pacino, you are relentlessly aware you are watching a Tom Hanks movie. The character is buried behind the movie star. Watch any work by Robert Duvall to see the difference. In fact, check out a list of the many great movies he has been in (To kill a Mockingbird, Network, MASH, Tender Mercies, Godfathers123, Lonesome Dove, True Grit etc etc) and try to recall seeing DUVALL. He’s the actor you can barely glimpse behind the character.

  4. I love every single role he has ever played. He is remarkably versatile. So down to earth for one so famous. Gump is definitely the most amazing, but the others come very close.
    The more of him, the better.

  5. Just the description sounds eerily like Gran Torino. Eastwood’s character loses his wife, doesn’t identify with his family, becomes the Mr. Fixit hero of the neighborhood overrun by Asians.

  6. It sounds to me like a retread of Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino., which WAS a hit in the Red States. I suppose this is a new winning formula…

    1. I very much agree this resonates with GRAN TORINO. Something that is actually watchable for baby boomers not to mention their grandchildren.

  7. Haven’t seen the “Otto” version but did watch the original foreign verison, “Ove”. Very good movie. I can see why someone came up with the idea of remaking it.

    1. Not to quibble, but remaking movies is not really an “idea”; it’s more of a scam or a grift. What people crave are stories; Hollywood finds stories and tells them; Hollywood only very rarely creates the stories, it steals or buys or rents them from other sources like fairy tales, books, or poetry/theater and presents them. I don’t dismiss the product, but the creativity of Hollywood is in the means and method of storytelling, not in ideas. And when a version of story makes a lot of people rich, they immediately set out to exploit it by churning out sequels and prequels and remakes and homages, not new ideas. These efforts are just about invariably lame, and the more they are re-told, the lamer they get, like third and fourth generation photocopies. They are made over and over, worse and worse each time, until no one will pay to see them. And when Hollywood tries to insert ideas that it thinks are important, interference with the original story and its attractions is guaranteed and the ruination of the story is accelerated. Case in point: the current furor over Tolkien’s stories and the pig’s breakfast Hollywood is making of them.

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