A Man Called Otto

By Joanna Langfield

I was perplexed this remake wasn’t hoisted into more theaters for the holiday season. After all, a Scrooge story is pretty much expected then. But, coming to us in the dead of winter, I can see why some may, despite their best intentions, fall for it. Because, for better or worse, this one feels like a big warm blanket.

Tom Hanks stars as Otto, a curmudgeon who, despite his own protests, gets into everybody’s business. He’s had enough and, as we meet him, Otto is about to end it all. Until not only do his plans fall flat, a family of immigrants moves in across the street.

There are zero surprises in this film. That’s right, zero. Except for the fact that Hanks, by sheer charm and talent, somehow makes us care about it all anyway. Maybe his Otto doesn’t have the same salt as the irascible Ove did in the far more engaging Swedish comic drama, but maybe, for some, that’s a good thing. Haven’t we all had enough of angry and bitter? Maybe it’s not so bad to spend two or so hours with a broken man who, thanks to the persistent affection of his United Nations like neighborhood, learns to heal. And while the critic in me bristles at the bland Americanization of what was a fine and popular European film, the obvious hope that infuses this screen here is pretty irresistible. Let’s hope a few people who need it, get the message.