A Man Called Otto Review- Hanks Channels an Old Man Who Gets a Nice Redemption Story In the End

A Man Called Ove was a Swedish film from 2015. It was nominated for best foreign language film in 2017. It was a pretty popular film with film critics and others that saw it. With that must come the inevitable remake for American audiences. Marc Forster is an acclaimed director in his own right who directed films such as World War Z, Quantum of Solace, The Kite Runner, and Finding Neverland. He created a remake with great love and respect for the legacy of the original.

Otto (Tom Hanks) is a crotchety old man who has a routine every morning. He does his rounds around his little neighborhood. Occasionally he yells at the UPS driver who enters the community when they’re not supposed to. He doesn’t get along with anybody. That is until a family moves in across the street from him. At first, they are a nuisance but eventually, they get along and become friends. He also ends up with a stray cat.

The family across the street is your typical family. A father (Manuel Garcia Rulfo) and a mother (Maraina Trevino) who’s pregnant with her third child. She already has two adorable little girls. There are some interesting other characters who live in the community as well. The walker who says high to Otto and he lives with an old friend of Otto’s that isn’t doing that well. The ditsy blonde and her little dog who does their business where it’s not supposed to. And her husband. But there is a real estate developer who has been snooping around.

Tom Hanks has had an up-and-down year but A Man Called Otto might be his high in a rather low year. First, he co-starred in Elvis opposite Austin Butler as Colonel Tom Parker. It was a vastly different role than anything Hanks has ever done before. He finally played a villain. Then he played the lovely adorable Guipetto in Disney’s live-action Pinocchio. Not to be confused with Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio for Netflix. Otto might be the most nuanced character he’s played all year though. He finally got back to playing good guy roles people can get behind. Even though there are some somber moments in the film.

Marc Forster the director used a couple of different techniques in telling this story of a lost old man until he is found again. The first is a series of flashbacks where the audience gets to learn about Otto and who he is and why he’s such a crouched old man in the present. Hanks’s actual son Truman Hanks plays Otto in the flashbacks and Rachel Keller plays his girlfriend and eventual wife. The various ways Foster tells the story are very good. It fleshes out the characters and the backstories very nicely. It creates an investment in the audience watching the movie.

Sony decided to do an interesting thing with the marketing campaign with A Man Called Otto. Those that saw the original might know what I’m talking about but I won’t spoil it here. They wanted the audience to feel bad for this old man and show that he isn’t as bad as he seems in the trailer. That he can find a silver lining and come around to his new neighbors. But there is a dark side to this character that won’t be easy for some people to take. Especially people who are elderly or who have elderly parents or grandparents. These themes in the film are very heavy and emotional. It was rated PG-13 for a good reason. Dramedy is a perfect description of the movie though.

A Man Called Otto is based on the book A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Bachman and written by David Magee, script by. They infuse elements of humor and drama into this story. This film is pretty heavy with themes that aren’t for the faint of heart. Forster mixes up ways to tell the story effectively without making it too melodramatic. This movie has a beautiful story of this old man redeeming himself in his community and has some real heart to it. Tom Hanks gives the best performance in years as old man Otto. He gets back to the Hanks we all know and love from his many projects back in the 80s and 90s that are so memorable. This is a fantastic reboot of the great Swedish film which should be a nice counter-programming movie for those who don’t want to go back to Pandora.

4 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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