Remakes are not generally where you go to find surprises. In fact, their very nature largely prevents it. So, it was kind of a small-scale delight to find out just how appealing A Man Called Otto turns out to be. This remake of A Man Called Ove isn’t especially necessary, but when you’re enjoying a well told bit of cinema like this, you rarely end up caring much. You’re just enjoying the ride, familiar as it might be.
A Man Called Otto is an old-fashioned charmer. It’s the type of mainstream Hollywood movie that’s designed to make you laugh and to make you cry. Well, even if that seems a bit manipulative and shameless, this film has got the goods, because readers, I laughed and I cried, even having been familiar with A Man Called Ove.
An adaptation of the novel/remake of the film of (nearly) the same name, we follow grump Otto (Tom Hanks) as he goes about his day. A curmudgeon who has just entered retirement, we gather quickly that he’s also a widow. Not only that, he’s planning on ending it all to be with his beloved again. Just as he’s about to take his life, he hears a family moving in outside. They’re going to change him in ways he never could have expected.
Though initially exasperated with Marisol (Mariana Treviño) and Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), like with everyone else, the former eventually grows on him. Along with her precocious young daughters, Marisol warms Otto up a bit, even as he remains elusive about his wife, her passing, and why he’s the way he is. Eventually, that changes, especially as we see Otto start to turn back into the man he once was.
Tom Hanks plays a grumpy old man way more effectively than you might have expected. Along with Mariana Treviño, they play the sort of winning characters you want to root for. Hanks and Treviño share an easy chemistry, while the former gets to draw out more emotions than you’d initially think possible, given the material. It’s destined to be an underrated performances of his. The rest of the cast, besides the aforementioned Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, includes Mike Birbiglia, Truman Hanks, and more.
Director Marc Forster and scribe David Magee make this adaptation easily recognizable but also with its own distinct personality. They lean into the emotions of the Thomas Newman score, as well as the occasional hockey element, but by and large, Forster and Magee know what works. Aside from a slightly bloated running time, most of the notes they hit are the most effective ones. There’s a clear affection for the source material too that helps A Man Called Otto work as well as it ultimately does.
A Man Called Otto surprised me. Not only is it amusing and charming, but it’s more of a tear-jerker than planned. This may not be the superior version of the story, but it might be the most emotional of the lot. Consider that a low-level shock, even with the reliable presence of one Tom Hanks.