ReviewsMovies

‘Man Called Otto’ Is Oscar-Bait at Its Worst

A surprisingly cranky Tom Hanks can't elevate this cringe-worthy drama

Audiences crave predictability in measured doses.

We want the superhero to save the day and the boy to both meet and stay with the girl in a rom-com. So when we see the curmudgeonly antihero in “A Man Called Otto” we don’t want him to stay curmudgeonly for long.

Formulas matter, but screenplays need something extra to make them magical. The classic quote, “I’ll have what she’s having,” from “When Harry Met Sally” jumps to mind.

Tom Hanks’ “Otto” offers little that is fresh or rewarding. It’s a curdled lineup of tropes begging us to like them. The Oscar winner allows himself to be nasty at times, a welcome change from his standard screen image.

What’s missing is a story that has even a mild relationship with reality.

A MAN CALLED OTTO - Official Trailer (HD)

Hanks’ Otto Anderson is at the end of his rope. Literally.

He’s been nudged out of his decades-long job, pummeled by life’s inequities and widowed after years of blissful marriage.

And he’s taking it out on everyone he meets.

Otto dresses down the local shop clerk for a minor error, mocks anyone who doesn’t follow the precise rules of the road and is so curt with neighbors you wonder why they don’t take a swing at him.

You might. Trust us.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by A Man Called Otto (@amancalledotto)

Hanks, he of the two Oscars and Jimmy Stewart-like reputation, overplays his hand at the jump. It’s the first sign of storytelling trouble, but it’ll soon have company.

Somehow, some way, his neighbors put up with Otto. Maybe they need him to fix their radiators or give them a ride to the store. They genuflect to his old-school wisdom, swallowing hard as he defecates all over them.

Awwww.

In Otto’s meager defense, he’s contemplating suicide as the story opens. He’s a square peg in a societal round hole, and he’s had enough. That’s until he meets the new neighbors, a Mexican couple with two adorable girls who adore Otto for no reason besides it tells them so in the script.

Marisol (Mariana Trevino) speaks in a thick Spanish accent except when she doesn’t and, in a storytelling first, she’s a recent immigrant who happens to be a great cook!

Her husband (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) would need a year of tutelage under Jordan Peterson to rise to beta male status. He can’t parallel park a car and calls an Allen wrench an “Alvin” wrench.

You know, like the chipmunk! These are the laughs, folks.

A MAN CALLED OTTO Film Clip - Meet the Neighbors

Other wacky neighbors include a perpetually grinning man who desperately wants to hang with Otto. Wouldn’t you? He sounds like a party.

The film’s worst moment, and it has some stiff competition, finds Otto dressing down a hospital clown before the conflict gets physical.

Really.

Another face on the block belongs to Malcolm (Mack Bayda), a local trans youth. Now, you might expect an old-school soul like Otto to be put off by such a neighbor. Otto hails from a different generation, and the modern world flummoxes him.

That kind of reaction can’t be told, according to Woke Storytelling 101, because Otto is ultimately the film’s hero. So Otto quickly warms to Malcolm and treats him like one of the family.

RELATED: HOW TOM HANKS PUTS JENNIFER LAWRENCE TO SHAME 

We slowly learn the hardships Otto faced over the decades in an endless series of flashbacks. It’s like “The Notebook Part II,” but even more cloying. Otto’s love story is so idealized you half expect the couple to run towards each other in slow motion, with a Carpenters ballad playing behind them.

There’s an interesting commentary staring at us throughout “Otto.” The younger generation has lost its way, unable to drive a manual car, fix basic items and make sense of their chaotic lives.

Otto nails all of the above, and he finds salvation in doing so despite his cranky complaints.

It’s the film’s sole pleasure.

“Otto,” based on the Swedish film “A Man Called Ove” inspired by the best-seller, features a final act so predictable you could turn your head away from the screen and scribble what happens down on your popcorn box with near-perfect accuracy.

Director Marc Foster falls down a rabbit hole of twee and never finds his way back home. Foster’s resume has some impressive moments (“World War Z,” “Stranger Than Fiction”), but this kind of sticky sentiment proves outside his grasp.

HiT or Miss: “A Man Called Otto” snuck in at the last moment for 2022 Oscar consideration, but it stands a better chance at a Razzie or two.

Show More

23 Comments

  1. It was better when it had Clint Eastwood in it and was called “Gran Torino”, but even that one wasn’t very good.

  2. It is a faithful remake of A Man Called Uve, from the wildly successful novel by Frederik Backman, NOT a Hollywood formula flic. It wouldn’t have been made if both the novel and the Swedish film had not been so popular. If you’re going to review a movie, maybe do some research first.

    1. A film can be both a remake and formulaic to the core. And the review mentions the Swedish film and its origin.

  3. You so missed your review on this one! The neighbors knew Otto before and that’s why they put up with him. It’s not about the clown it’s about the quarter. The kids see Otto for who he really is that’s why they paint him in color. You never mention the young Otto is Hanks’ son and does a great job and addresses his not so great childhood and youth awkwardness. The love story comes with the most tragedy a couple could ever imagine! Otto explains he wanted to go after everyone and she prevented that but now she is gone. Otto’s condition also plays a “big” role in this movie and again not discussed. (Hope you get the pun) You missed so many underlying stories and gave your readers a very wrong impression of this movie

    1. I agree with you completely. Very well put assessment. Some important points were missed in most reviews. This notion in film that “everything predictable is inherently bad” needs to be reviewed. There are more reasons to watch a film then wanting characters and stories to behave antithetically. Some of us like a moral predictable story. Some people fighting through grief in their real lives can discover a movie like this and find it has a cathartic affect on them.

  4. How can you a movie about “the younger generation has lost its way” and then embrace gender bending?

  5. Interestingly, Tom Hanks has now starred in two mediocre remakes of excellent films. “The Man with One Red Shoe” is a remake of the excellent French film “The Tall Bond Man with One Black Shoe.” “A Man Called Otto” is a remake of the Swedish film “A Man Called Ove.” I highly recommend the originals. The Tom Hanks remakes, not so much.

  6. I am relieved the the film had at least one representation of Trans youth, because as we all rightfully believe, there ought to be a trans person in every film made, if not the starring characters, because they are so important to the world today.

  7. In “Larry Crowne,” Hanks wrote and directed himself as a dull middle-aged guy who’d been passed by in life, yet was so upright and lovable that he was befriended by cool college kids and ended up dating Julia Roberts. This sounds like another step in that direction. He’s testing the limits of his natural likeability — and apparently has finally found them.

  8. I read this review, and then an article by John Nolte about how this movie proved that audiences still crave movies that don’t preach at you. So I had high hopes, but honestly, I hated it.

    Otto doesn’t just consider suicide, he tries it 4 times, and the movie is very graphic with showing it:
    1. A noose around his neck with him choking.
    2. Sitting in car in garage with hose in the window.
    3. Lying down on train tracks.
    4. Shotgun under his chin, ready to pull trigger.

    We have all gone through crap in our lives, and lost loved ones, but Otto’s only answer is suicide. Seems harsh, and stupid. And, if his wife was so great and so full of love, why didn’t some of that love for others rub off on Otto? He seemed very selfish to me. Also, if Otto plans to kill himself to be with his wife, shouldn’t there have been some sort of discussion about the belief in the afterlife through a religion or whatever, so suicide would make sense?

    Tom Hanks is a great actor, so his interaction with the neighbors was amusing at times. But, then to cut to a scene where he is hanging from a noose, takes away all meaning from the scenes where he is a grouchy old man.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button