SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — A Man Called Otto
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Marc Forster
Writers: David Magee, Fedrik Backman, Hannes Holm
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving suicide attempts, and language.
Studio Synopsis: Based on the # 1 New York Times bestseller “A Man Called Ove,” A Man Called Otto tells the story of Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), a grump who no longer sees purpose in his life following the loss of his wife. Otto is ready to end it all, but his plans are interrupted when a lively young family moves in next door, and he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol. She challenges him to see life differently, leading to an unlikely friendship that turns his world around. A heartwarming and funny story about love, loss, and life, A Man Called Otto shows that family can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places.
Review: Otto is a miserable person with combative attitude. He has no filter. When the synopsis says, “Otto is ready to end it all, but his plans are interrupted when a lively young family moves in next door” it means that Otto is ready and determined to take his own life. But Otto is needed.
“A Man Called Otto” starts in an incredibly dark place with a character that is hardly sympathetic. Otto is the neighbor that no one wants. And yet, it becomes increasingly clear that Otto isn’t nearly as despised by his neighbors as you’d expect. So, what’s the story with Otto?
Having seen “En man som heter Ove,” the Swedish film that this movie is based on, I already knew the big reveals and the ending. I wish I didn’t. It would make it far easier to assess the quality of this version of the story.
One advantage “En man som heter Ove” has over this English adaptation is that the source material, a novel by Fredrik Backman, is set in Sweden. There are cultural aspects to the story that don’t directly translate to the English revision. This gives the film a quirkiness that I don’t think is entirely intentional.
Another advantage is its cast. I love Tom Hanks, but my affinity for him as an actor has an impact on how I view his character. A director can use that to their advantage, but here it gets in the way. Rolf Lassgård played the role in the original film and his relative newness to me kept me from feeling any sympathy for the character until the narrative justified it. I can hate Lassgård’s Ove without feeling guilty.
Ultimately, if memory serves, “En man som heter Ove” felt just a touch more real, less sentimental. Being more accessible doesn’t always make a film better. This feels a little too schmaltzy.
Still, I suspect that most audiences will enjoy getting to know Otto. They’ll certainly love the ending and the amiability of Hanks might allow them to work through the film’s first act when things aren’t particularly joyous.