Everyone has those trailers that get out under their skin if they see them enough times. Throughout the winter of 2022, the prime contender for this dubious award in this writer’s view was A Man Called Otto. The Tom Hanks remake of the successful Swedish film A Man Called Ove. Having not seen the original over two minutes the trailer for the US version simply attempts to sell the audience on “it’s Tom Hanks. he’s grumpy.” Nevertheless, in the dwindling market full theatrical exclusives in a post-COVID environment Sony have decided to market it as an initial first-run exclusive for the time being. This viewer was always going to give it a chance but did not go in with a great deal of hope. How is the film?
Honestly. Nothing great but it’s better than this watcher thought it would be. The surprise here might be that Hanks is remarkably good at leveraging his “America’s dad” persona for some blackly comedic beats that are honestly pretty effective. These clashes quite desperately against the multiple scenes of attempted suicide. This strikes something of an odd note against the general tone that is very blatantly sentimental. That said the fact the film works at all with such a jumbled tone is a testament to the script feeling decidedly sharper than it needs to be. The central characters r relationship with the newly moved-in Hispanic family next door is quite sweet in execution and his mellowing throughout the film is believable and endearing. Under the fairly extreme tonal whiplash that can occur from scene to scene is surprisingly accessible and easy to like with its heart on its sleeve. There are no surprises or curveballs if one has seen these style narratives play out before but the full package is pleasantly engaging viewing that’s worth taking the time to seek out. As is always the case with American remakes of popular foreign hits plenty will claim the original is better by default. Well, this viewer doesn’t doubt that that may be the case as someone who was sick and tired of seeing the trailer before the final film shuffled its way into UK cinemas the US version was decidedly better than it had any right to be given its rather thin premise and reliance on the central performance.
A Man Called Otto will not rock any viewer’s world. That said Its mix of saccharine sentimentality and surprising darkness honestly should not work. One can see every beat coming from 10 minutes in with any level of genre familiarity. Yet with Hanks committed work in the central role and enough of the blackly comedic moments being largely effective. The film won this viewer over surprisingly quickly. It’s not going to trouble any viewer’s best of 2023 list and this watcher has no doubt the original will be better in the eyes of most people. its viability as a big theatrical exclusive from Sony is also questionable at best. If one is in the mood for a slice of Soviet blackly comedic laughs you could certainly do a lot worse than watching Tom Hanks be pretty effectively grumpy.