A Man Called Otto is the story of a neighborhood grump. Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) lives, as he has for decades, in a small suburban section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is particular about his ways. He has a penchant for rules. And he does not like these things disturbed. Ever since his wife Sonya (Rachel Keller) passed away, it seems to him as though no one has any respect for order anymore. As such, Otto is not afraid to tell people exactly what he thinks of their unacceptable behavior, making him a bit of curmudgeon. When some new affable neighbors move in, they slowly begin to melt Otto’s cold heart making him remember all the good parts of life.
What works in A Man Called Otto is Hanks’ endearing performance and the simple, but important message. 2023 is the year where Hanks has hit pause on familiar “happy dad” type roles (see also: Elvis), and here he is very effective. His version of Otto is awkward and complex in very relatable ways. He begins at a place of “woe is me” that is understandable, but also overblown and hyperbolic. With the assistance of his community, Otto takes a heartwarming (and often comedic) journey back to center finding peace. This is cinema so this transition happens with perhaps implausible ease, but the transformation is pure fun. It also highlights the positive theme of never succumbing to emotional defeat and allowing the kindness of others into one’s life when necessary.
Audiences who don’t enjoy overly sentimental, borderline saccharine movies may not enjoy A Man Called Otto as much as others. The film tackles some very complex issues in simplistic fashion, and at times feels a bit like a paint-by-numbers script with rigid beats of when to cry and when to laugh. Furthermore, audiences should be aware the topic of suicide is prominent in A Man Called Otto. Because the movie handles the issue of self-harm with dark humor, this could be seen as insensitive or upsetting.
A Man Called Otto is a heartwarming, identifiable tale of finding joy after loss. Life is funny if you know where to look for laughs, and Hanks knows exactly how to make audiences chuckle as Otto opens his eyes to new friendships and possibilities.
Recommended if you Enjoyed: Groundhog Day, Living, Grumpy Old Men
A Man Called Otto is available exclusively in theaters starting on January 13th, 2023.