Tom Hanks plays a suicidal Karen in A Man Called Otto, a self-declared “comedy-drama” that apparently is shooting for the “feel good movie of the holidays” audience [update: it was pushed back to January] while actually being about a grumpy asshole who has a soft side and, more importantly, a desire to off himself any way he can.
A Man Called Otto begins well enough, with director Marc Forster trying to convince us that the nicest actor on the planet can actually play a curmudgeonly grump (the truth is Hanks can only pull off the act for a short while). It’s in these early moments that I thought maybe, just maybe, this movie had a shot at winning me over (I haven’t seen the original, critically acclaimed Scandinavian picture A Man Called Ove).
And then Otto tries to kill himself.
I’m totally fine with a movie about suicide, but A Man Called Otto quickly turns into a rather dull affair that largely alternates between Otto doing mundane things that aren’t particularly interesting, Otto trying to kill himself repeatedly, Otto interacting with a friendly neighbor who annoyingly won’t let him say no to friendship, and flashbacks to when Otto was young and met his now-deceased wife.
The entire movie is all fine but incredibly uninteresting; the flashbacks, for one, are so straightforward and charmingly bland they barely register as drama, even though you can tell Forster intended these sequences to be the heart of the story. More importantly, they never establish the undying love Otto felt for his wife that causes him all these years later to be utterly awful.
Hanks is fine, too, but it’s a pretty vanilla role for the storied actor; the only emotion the movie really elicited from me was anger that Hanks was wasted on such material.
A Man Called Otto is a harmless little comedy-drama that unfortunately is lacking in the humor department and doesn’t fare much better on the serious stuff, either. You could do worse, but you could do a whole lot better–for starters, the original is streaming on Prime right now.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.