By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
The always affable, big-hearted Tom Hanks,
aka "America's Dad," shows his grumpy side in "A Man Called Otto"
from director Marc Forster ("World War Z" and "Come Sunday") and screenwriter David Magee ("Lady Chatterley's Lover") The movie is a remake of the 2015 hit Swedish film, "A Man Called Ove" and is based on Fredrik Backman’s
2014 New York Times bestselling novel.
"A Man Called Otto" is at times sentimental, sappy, and funny. Hanks is perfect for the roll and sells every emotion. We soon understand why Otto is so cold and distant to everyone in his small Pittsburgh community where he lives alone in a townhouse. Otto's wife Sonya (Rachel Keller, "Tokyo Vice"), recently died of cancer.
As far as he's concerned there isn't much reason to be happy and nice to other people. In fact, wishes he could join her, and he tries to take his life by unsuccessfully hanging himself.
His neighbors barely get a hello from him when he goes on his morning walks. Otto makes sure that everyone who drives through his gated community, adhere to the strict rules of parking, noise, and everything else. No one is above reproach, not even the nice UPS delivery driver who is simply doing her job.
Otto is forced to retire from his blue-collar job because no one really likes him. Yet, his boss and co-workers send him off with a cake and little party as if they have loved him forever and are going to miss him.
The film's flashback moments show a young Otto (played by Hanks' son Truman) meeting his soon to be wife and how they fell in love. Then we see Otto drifting off in space in his house and imagining how things would be if Sonya were still around.
Otto's life slowly begins to change when quirky new neighbors Marisol (Mariana Trevino, TV's "Once Upon a Time...But Not Anymore") and Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, TV's "The Lincoln Lawyer") move in. They get off to a bad start because Tommy can't parallel park their U-Haul trailer and Otto does it for him.
Marisol immediately likes Otto. He reminds her in some ways of her dad. She shows her appreciation to Otto for helping them, by bringing him homemade Mexican food. It's good stuff. Plus, eating Marisol's food keeps Otto from trying to hang himself again.
Despite Otto's reluctance to get to know Marisol, they start to chat. Marisol assures Otto that he can't do everything by himself. He needs other people like them and even her adorable kids. It turns out, Otto needs a cat too. When a stray winds up at his house, he takes the big fur ball in. Initially they have a love, hate relationship, but Otto soon finds the pretty kitty rather comforting, and it helps thaw his frozen heart.
Watching Otto, squirm, argue and fight his way to get to that point is what makes "A Man Called Otto" so enjoyable and a refreshing, feel-good movie.
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Check Out This Trailer For "A Man Called Otto"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.