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A Man Called Otto

Uncomfortably bouncing from tragedy to comedy and back again, A MAN CALLED OTTO never settles into any tone beyond mediocre.

Tom Hanks plays against type as recent widower Otto, finding meaning in life through enforcing neighborhood rules at a Gestapo level.

He's alienated all his neighbors and wallows in his daily routine.

Predictably, he's also facing off against a big company trying to build condos over his street and a stray cat that seems to follow him daily.

The film gets a huge boost of energy and talent when the new neighbors move in. Newcomer Mariana Trevino shines as Marisol, a force of nature and unfiltered happiness with a lot of patience and resistant ambivalence toward Otto's grumpy ways. He scares everyone else off, but not Marisol. Trevino is excellent and walks away with the movie on her back. Cameron Britton (Mindhunter) is also good as quirky neighbor Jimmy, as is TV veteran actor Juanita Jennings as neighbor Anita.

If the trailers have made you think this is a feel good comedy, it feels like it wants to be, but Director Mark Forster (who I've never forgiven for his crap OO7 entry "Quantum of Solace") stages incredibly dark and realistic attempted suicide scenes with Otto trying to off himself. The first one is startling, but by the fourth or fifth, the film struggles to pop back into comedy territory. Forgive me, but when Otto has draped his living room in plastic sheets "Dexter-style" and holds a shotgun to his face, I'm struggling to roll back into the laughs.

Hanks is good, but feels miscast, because he's TOM HANKS and you know there's a good Otto buried inside the hard outer shell. With that never in doubt, the only mystery is how many homemade meals from Marisol it will take to conjure his inner good.

It's all nicely executed and not without some feel good moments, but they never rose above movie-of-the-week level for me. If you want to see a flawless and brilliant take on a widower wondering if his life is worth living, loaded with huge laughs and genuine tears, watch Ricky Gervais' stunning AFTER LIFE series.

Compared to Gervais' writing and execution, A MAN CALLED OTTO is a misguided after school special featuring one terrific performance by Trevino.


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