‘A Man Called Otto’ improves upon the popular original movie

A Man Called Otto' Trailer: Tom Hanks Wants (Almost) Everyone To Get Off  His Lawn – Deadline

A Man Called Otto (2022)

Directed by Marc Forster

Many people like to criticize movie studios (or Hollywood in general) whenever they announce an English-language remake of an international movie. That’s especially true when the original movie is well-liked. “A Man Called Otto,” a Pittsburgh-set remake of the 2015 Swedish film “A Man Called Ove” (itself based on a bestselling 2012 novel), was met with this criticism. But I think audiences should learn to just ignore movies they don’t think should exist, instead of trying to tear them down. You don’t see me hate-Tweeting at Illumination whenever they announce a new “Despicable Me” movie, despite my firm belief that they represent the downfall of American cinema…and perhaps American culture in general. Instead, I just choose not to watch it. Or I do watch it, and then roll my eyes the whole time. Anyway, I’ve never read the Swedish novel that was a surprise hit in America, but I did see “A Man Called Ove” in 2015…and I wasn’t a fan. The main character, a cantankerous widower, really grinded my gears. Sure, he warms up ever so slightly throughout the movie. That’s kind of the point. But he’s so unlikable to start, a redemption was out of the question in my eyes. By softening the edges of the main character ever so slightly, I believe “A Man Called Otto” actually improves upon the original. But even if it didn’t, it doesn’t hurt anyone to have another version of the story.

Tom Hanks plays the main character, a retired mechanic whose wife recently passed but whose routines are still firmly entrenched…maybe now more than ever. Every morning, he makes his rounds up and down the street to check for unregistered cars and unclosed gates. But he’s recently decided, without his wife around to give him purpose, that he no longer has any reason to live. He commits to killing himself. But when a new family moves in across the street—high-spirited Marisol (Mariana Treviño), her husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and their two daughters—Otto’s fastidious instincts take over. At first, he only wants to make sure they follow the neighborhood rules. After a while, though, he begins to warm up to the family.

Watch A Man Called Otto Trailer: Tom Hanks is a grumpy widower who becomes  friends with a pregnant woman

As I said before, I enjoyed “A Man Called Otto” more than its Swedish predecessor primarily because of Tom Hanks’s performance. For one, he presents a gentler version of the character. It’s more apparent in “Otto” that underneath his rough exterior is a big heart. Flashbacks starring Hanks’s son Truman as a younger version of Otto show important scenes from his life and his marriage leading up to the present. It gets you on his side, rooting for his grief to subside enough to let people in again. Tom Hanks is a perennial Oscar favorite, but after a year of subpar performances as Colonel Tom Parker (“Elvis”) and Geppetto (“Pinocchio”), I was thrilled to see him turn in a performance at the level we’ve come to expect from one of Hollywood’s most endearing and enduring superstars. This is a return to form. Judging by the kinds of roles Hanks has been typecast in for nearly 40 years—roles that could often be described as “lovable grump”—Otto is truly the role Hanks was born to play. But this movie wouldn’t have been half as entertaining if it wasn’t for the biggest bright spot, Mexican actress Mariana Treviño. As Marisol, she’s exactly the warm and generous presence—not to mention the hilarious one—that her role calls for. And that this sometimes dark movie desperately needs.

New 'A Man Called Otto' Trailer: Marc Forster's Latest With Tom Hanks Hits  Theaters On January 13

“A Man Called Otto” is a movie about seeing the good in a world that can seem pretty bad. It’s a play on “It’s a Wonderful Life,” without the supernatural. It’s also a movie about what Otto sees as the erosion of human connection…but miraculously, it avoids being so “Old man yells at cloud” that young people roll their eyes. That might have been a reason “A Man Called Ove” turned me off all those years ago—so often, movies about old people complaining about progress annoy the young people who enjoy that same progress. But “A Man Called Otto” keeps it pretty universal. The film makes it clear Otto is no bigot, but a man who remembers a time when people conversed in person instead of by staring at a screen. Fair enough.

Folks can complain about English-language remakes of international movies, or they can be happy more people are having the chance at seeing a story they enjoy. I’m sure some fans of “Otto” will seek out “Ove,” making this remake a positive thing for the original movie. Those who aren’t convinced of this might need “A Man Called Otto” and its message of positivity more than anyone.


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