Movie Review - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Max Von Sydow (left) & Thomas Horn
in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
It's two hours with the most annoying kid in New York City who basically goes on a journey not too far flung from The Wizard of Oz. Instead of learning, "There's no place like home," the main character here, Oskar Schell, has to learn his father is dead and is never coming back. Oskar doesn't follow a yellow brick road but names in a phone book. Along the way, he doesn't meet a scarecrow, a cowardly lion and a tin man, but he meets people who kind of come close.

Oskar's father died on September 11. He was in the World Trade Center. A year later, Oskar finds a key in his father's closet. Oskar vows to find out where that key belongs. Apparently, it doesn't fit any locks in his Manhattan apartment, so he sets out on a far-fetched odyssey that ultimately turns out to be a pointless odyssey.

Screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump and The Insider) does a decent adaptation, wheedling down all the unnecessary ramblings from the book into its essential core. Director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot and The Hours) punches with key moments of melodrama to beef up that essential core. Playing off images of 9/11, he doesn't have to punch too hard, but he may go a step too far with an image of Oskar's father, played by Tom Hanks, falling from atop the World Trade Center. It contradicts a later scene that reveals what Oskar's father's last minutes actually were.

Unfortunately, Oskar is too annoying. It would be one thing if Oskar were a supporting character and we only got small doses of him, but he's in almost every scene, making Oskar nearly insufferable. He says that he thinks he has Asperger's syndrome, which might explain his behavior, but, explanation or not, Oskar is a bit of a jerk.

I got through Jonathan Safran Foer's novel, which this movie is based, and, by a third of the way into it, I was fairly certain that I disliked Oskar. Hate might be too strong a word. Yet, whether it's this young actor's performance or Foer's writing, Oskar comes off as a know-it-all. With Foer giving him so many quirks and over-the-top characteristics, I felt like I was being bombarded by this kid and his personality.

The performance of Max Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal and The Exorcist) helps to counter-balance the Oskar onslaught. Having read the book, there were crucial tidbits about Sydow's character that was left out, but Sydow makes it somewhat effective. Sandra Bullock (Crash and The Blind Side) co-stars and is particularly heartbreaking in one scene where she goes toe-to-toe in a powerful screaming match with Thomas Horn who plays Oskar.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for emotional material, some disturbing images and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 9 mins.


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