A Man Called Otto Star rating: ★★☆☆☆
When you think of movie stars that seem nice, Tom Hanks has to be at the top of the list. You don’t play Mr Rogers, Walt Disney, Woody, and Santa Claus without people feeling affection toward you. That’s why the two-time Oscar winner seems such an odd choice for this new film, although his casting is the least of its problems.
Based on the Swedish novel A Man Called Ove, Hanks plays Otto, a cantankerous 60-year-old ranting against the world as he retires and watches his neighbourhood change. Secretly, he is struggling with grief, and plans various methods of killing himself. However, new neighbours repeatedly disturb his efforts, leading to a begrudging friendship that makes him see things differently.
The story lurches awkwardly between serious issues and light comedy. On one hand, we see Tom Hanks grumbling about hybrid cars and how nobody knows how to fix anything anymore. It’s all fairly standard grumpy old man stuff, until Hanks closes the door on the world and tries to kill himself in fairly graphic scenes. The darkly comic tone of these moments (trying and failing to end his life through grief) are miscalculated, and not something that can be counterbalanced by cutesy subplots like his bond with a stray cat.
There is a redeeming quality: Mariana Treviño is compelling as Marisol, the caring neighbour who sees past Otto’s harsh exterior. It won’t help ease the current “Nepo-Baby” debate about privilege in Hollywood, but Truman Hanks is solid in flashback appearances as a young Otto, his second acting credit after 2019’s News of The World, which also starred his father.
Mawkish and tonally messy, A Man Called Otto squanders a pertinent story about loneliness in favour of old geezer antics. Not even the universally beloved Hanks can save a film that mishandles its sentiment so badly.
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