“A Man Called Otto” is directed by Marc Forster (World War Z, The Kite Runner) and stars Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away) as Otto. The performers joining him in the cast are Mariana Treviño (How to Break Up with Your Douchebag, Overboard), Rachel Keller (Tokyo Vice, Legion), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven, Murder on the Orient Express), Truman Hanks, and Mike Birbiglia (Orange Is the New Black, Billions). In this adaptation of the Swedish novel and film by the name of “A Man Called Ove,” Otto is a man who has had it all. When a new neighbor moves in, Otto develops a companionship that may turn his frown upside down.
Complaining. It is about as human as breathing. Complaining is the foundation of many protagonists. Some of the most iconic film protagonists of all time started off their story by complaining. In “Star Wars,” Luke Skywalker complains about having to live on the farm for another year. In “Ratatouille,” Remy complains about the way rats treat food compared to mankind. In “Risky Business,” Joel Goodson complains about the landscape of high school as it comes to an end while he tries to pass his exams and get into a good university. We love to complain, and I have done my fair share of it over the years. And I assure a lot of people reading this have too. Now this story centers around that entirely. Otto is an aged man who has seen a lot over the years, maybe too much. He thinks he is smarter than everyone else, and he simultaneously thinks society as a whole is getting dumber. When I think of Tom Hanks, this is a more subversive role for him, much like his appearance the recent shiny, polished turd known as “Elvis.”
Much like “Elvis,” I was not a huge fan of “A Man Called Otto.” Not because I think it is a bad adaptation. I have not seen the original movie or read the novel. Therefore, I have nothing to compare it to. But if I have to be real, this movie was not for me.
As someone who has reviewed movies on the web since 2016, I have learned that sometimes I can be predisposed to liking certain things. I love “Star Wars,” so I often get excited for whatever the franchise has coming up. I am a huge fan of J.K. Simmons, therefore when he is in a new project, I am usually curious. Similarly, when I look back at my experience regarding “A Man Called Otto,” I may have been predisposed to thinking I would not like it. Not because Hanks is playing someone who is complaining, but because the main character himself is complaining. What do I mean? Honestly, I have had enough of it in real life. Look at me, complaining about complaining. Hey, everyone! Time for a new drinking game! Take a shot every time the Movie Reviewing Moron says “complaining!”
I am not saying that characters in a movie should not complain. But what I liked about Luke Skywalker is that when I watched him, complaining never felt like the definitive aspect of his character. Sure, he definitely whined, he definitely did not want to do certain things for particular reasons, but Luke Skywalker felt like a relatable character, at least to me. Part of it is because of his complaining, but it was executed in a way that was palatable. I cannot say the same for Otto. While there is noticeable character development in “A Man Called Otto,” the character of Otto starts the movie calling out everything in sight that he views as unfit or unlike his worldview, and it is hard for him to stop. There are few things that are as important in life as first impressions. If I go to a pizza shop and I end up making a wacko face on my first bite of their pie, that is not the best of signs. I might hesitate to come back. Tom Hanks, or perhaps director Marc Forster, is the pizza shop owner. And the character of Otto, unfortunately, is a lackluster pie.
Although speaking of predisposal, part of me wonders how much the supposed subversiveness of this role rubbed me the wrong way. Tom Hanks is, perhaps stereotypically, America’s dad. And seeing him in a light like this felt jarring. But if you ask me, I do not know if that is the case. Because in reality, Tom Hanks is a great actor. But he feels miscast here. Yes, name recognition helps, but he nevertheless sometimes fails to bind with this role. Plus, after seeing him in “Elvis,” where he potentially gave my least performance he has done as the weirdly accented Tom Parker, and now this, I am beginning to assume that this turn where he plays meaner or comparatively pessimistic roles is not working out. I recently watched “Spirited,” the brand new holiday movie, with my family last December. During said viewing, my mom said she does was not used to seeing Ryan Reynolds or Will Ferrell sing or do anything musical-related. As far as I’m concerned, Ferrell and Reynolds had range whereas Hanks is trying his best and he does not have everything down to a science. In some ways, his character is comes off as one-dimensional as a ragdoll. I love Tom Hanks, but this is not his best work.
This is not to say that “A Man Called Otto” is entirely bad. If anything, it is an interesting concept for a movie that is not done as well as I would have hoped. There are characters I liked in the film including Marisol, played by Mariana Treviño. Every scene she is in, she warms everything up, including my brain. She is perhaps the most adorable character in the entire film. If I could spend an entire weekend with this character, I might take that chance.
The film, which again, is based on previous works from Sweden, also has a nice touch to honor where it came from. There is a scene set in a cafe where Otto shows Marisol a certain usual he enjoys. The moment he explained what it was, I thought it was a nice little touch. As much as I dig on this film, I will recognize some small glimmers of charm it carries.
Although despite the small glimmers of charm, when I take everything that I saw leading up to this film’s final moments, I look back at the film negatively. Almost in as grumpy of a state as Otto himself. There are funny moments in the film, but I cannot say they had me laughing out loud. There are poignant moments in the film, but I never felt a ton of emotional weight. Even though there are certain complexities in regard to Otto’s character that make him interesting, I never felt intrigued enough to say that my time was not being wasted. Ultimately, this film has some likable supporting characters, like the recently mentioned Marisol, but the same cannot be said for the film’s main character.
Though I must add one final note. There has been a lot of talk lately about “nepo-babies” in Hollywood and the film industry. Personally, I have mixed feelings on it given how I can support family business, but it could also exclude equally, more talented, or even more aspiring individuals who hope to enter this industry. With that in mind, I must say this film’s use of Tom Hanks’s son, Truman Hanks, was not only appropriate, but made for some highlights. Truman Hanks plays a prominent role in the film as the younger version of Otto. He is seen in several scenes and he plays the part well. I have no idea to what degree Truman Hanks is hoping to take acting seriously much like his father, but he did a good job in this film as Otto’s younger interpretation.
In the end, “A Man Called Otto” is a shocking movie. Because if you told me that I would watch two movies in the span of a year where I am not fond of Tom Hanks’s character, in addition to his performance, I would have slapped you Will Smith style. But here we are. I love Tom Hanks as an actor, and I would continue to watch anything he is in. Heck, they just announced “Toy Story 5.” I would watch that. But as much as I respect Tom Hanks for trying to spice things up from his usual flair, I think his “nicer” performances work because he executed them so much better. Although art is subjective, so maybe this flair works for others. But it did not work for me. I am going to give “A Man Called Otto” a 5/10.
“A Man Called Otto” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new MCU installment, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” I had the chance to see the film last weekend, and I will have the review for you to read sometime next week.
Also coming on March 5th, it’s the Jack Awards! Scene Before’s annual awards show is back with a new and hopefully improved name! Get ready for another unnecessarily long celebration of the past year in film with exclusive video content, also featured on my YouTube channel! The nominations for the show are already online, and if you would like to vote for Best Picture, click the link right here, it will take you to a poll and you can vote for one of the ten nominees! May the best picture win.
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