Otto Anderson is the kind of curmudgeon nearly every one of us has met – or is in danger of becoming. Otto is a stickler for the rules, prefers the old way of doing things, and shirks human contact.
He’s actually like a thickly crusted chocolate lava cake, this elderly man who sorely misses his beloved wife. Since Otto is played by Tom Hanks, Hollywood’s resident Mr Nice Guy, he can never be regarded as anything more than a crank in need of oiling.
Marc Forster’s A Man Called Otto is based on Fredrik Backman’s novel A Man Called Ove as well as the Swedish movie of the same name. David Magee’s adaptation piles on extra layers of warmth to a story about one man’s winter of discontent.
Pittsburgh native Otto finds his grouchiness tested when the heavily pregnant Marisol (Mariana Trevino) moves into his neighbourhood along with her dweeby husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Ruflo) and two adorable daughters. It is as hard to withstand Marisol’s sunniness as it is to resist Mariana Trevino’s hugely enjoyable performance.
The 126-minute film gives weighty issues such as ageism, grief over the death of a family member and the forced gentrification of old neighbourhoods the feather-light, fairy-tale treatment. Despite delivering few shocks – Otto’s barbs lack staying power – the comedy coasts along on sweet-natured performances and a life-is-ultimately-beautiful premise.
Tom Hanks does his best to look mean, but his inherent affability never fails to shine through. Otto discovers to his disgust that there is no avoiding mushiness. The movie similarly rolls out the butter along with some very mild bitters.