I often hear people criticize a remake by saying ‘this movie doesn’t need to exist.’ What they are trying to say is ‘this movie has already been made well once so there’s no reason to make it again…’ and they aren’t wrong. Especially in an era where we have access to most of the originals (thank goodness such gimmicks like the Disney vault are gone!) It’s particularly scummy when the only reason to remake a film is because the original is a foreign film and Americans can’t be bothered to read subtitles…All that said, the unnecessary remake can still be a serviceable film that’s well put together. Both things can be true. Such is the case with today’s film A Man Called Otto.
If you follow my content you might know A Man Called Ove (the original title) is one of my favorite recent novels. The novelist Fredrik Backman is one of the best writers working today. He is so great at creating characters I care about and describing the human condition. A Man Called Ove is fantastic and his Anxious People is outstanding.
In 2015 a Swedish adaptation of the book entitled A Man Called Ove was released starring Rolf Lassgard and it is an excellent adaptation that was nominated for 2 Oscars. It’s widely accessible to American audiences and can be watched currently for free on the kanopy library movie app (it’s not some obscure or hard to find foreign film.)
Now we have a new adaptation called A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks in the lead role. And all in all, despite feeling redundant, it’s a pretty good adaptation of this book. I admit I am a sucker for these kinds of grumpy old man redemption story movies, and I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t get to me, and I didn’t leave the theater wiping away some tears.
Hanks plays a grumpy old widower who’s sole purpose in life is monitoring the tenants of his little condo complex in Pittsburg. Nobody follows the rules well enough and everyone but Otto is an idiot that can’t get things right. However, what all the tenants don’t know is Otto has decided to end his life so that he can be with his wife who died the year before. Fortunately for him he meets a new neighbor Marisol (Mariana Trevino) who is up for whatever Otto can throw at her- even letting him teach her how to drive in a funny scene.
Hanks is a strange choice to play such a miserable character, but I suppose it helps the audience keep rooting for the character because he is such a likable presence. We also see flashbacks to his life with his wife (Truman Hanks plays young Otto) which helps endear us to the character.
Like I said, the redemption of a grumpy character (Up, Gran Torino, A Christmas Carol, As Good as it Gets…) is a favorite plot trope of mine in the movies. It will always get me crying and this did just that. Maybe it’s because I had a grumpy Grandpa who never came around, but I like to believe there is that potential in every one of us. It’s a very hopeful message I never tire of.
If you are triggered by suicide than A Man Called Otto won’t be for you, but I found it quite moving- even if it is unnecessary. You can totally stay at home and watch the original on kanopy, but if you do go out to see this new version, I bet you’ll have a good time and leave feeling uplifted. It’s a movie with a message that we can reach out and help even the most surly of neighbors and it will all turn out for the best. Maybe that’s a story worth telling…even twice?
6 out of 10
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