Of all the roles Tom Hanks had to pick from, he picked the most sensible and safe role. Maybe it was an over correction to something safe after the big swing earlier in the year that was Colonel Tom Parker in Elvis. But here is the great thing about Hanks, he got exactly where he is at by playing these kinds of characters, and he does it again with gusto.
The original Swedish film had acclaim, both critical and with audiences, as it was the highest grossing foreign film in the United States in 2016. The story, as in the original, is about a grumpy man who has given up on life after the loss of his wife. His life and his plans turn upside down when the boisterous new neighbors move in across the street.
Hanks is right at home with this character, delivering his lines and his grunts exactly the way you expect and exactly the way you want. There is an endearing quality that Hanks has acquired over the years, maybe you’ve seen him referred to as “America’s Dad”, being able to lean into this persona is what gives Otto life.
At times heartwarming and emotional, and then at times frustratingly formulaic and manipulative. The highs and lows live and die by what can easily devolve into Hallmark Channel territory with its saccharine attempts at inspiring affection towards Otto. His story is sad and if you have lost anyone in your life, will be relatable on an emotional level. The supporting cast, specifically Mariana Treviño, help add more emotional layers and she brings an energy that is contagious.
As a reflection on grief there really isn’t anything more than a surface level exploration, we see various attempts by Otto at ending this life, constantly getting interrupted during his attempts, some have a tinge of humor. Various flashbacks to the life he had with his wife are procedural and straightforward. Hanks’ son, Truman Hanks plays younger Otto with all the personality as a piece of wood, it’s much harder to connect to his story during those scenes.
A Man Called Otto is heartfelt and joyful, seeing the curmudgeon opening up and especially talking about his wife is heartbreaking. This is a crowd pleasing film that your parents will surely enjoy, and if you let it, a warm hug.
3.5 out of 5