Last year's major movies mainly drew a line in the sand between the critics and the public. The critic's idea of a good film was mostly at odds with what people wanted to pay to see. Still, most of America was inclined to be eager to see Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. It took a while for it to finally reach their local theaters and when they saw it they were not happy.
On the surface it looks like a surefire hit. It certainly has a star-filled cast. Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow and Viola Davis are wonderfully talented actors. They operate in this film under the direction of Stephen Daldry who also helmed The Hours, The Reader and Billy Elliot. Plus the story involves the tragedy of 9/11, a plot angle that was bound to be used at some date.
So what went wrong? The first flaw is that the movie never delivers the emotional impact it should. The story involves a family -- enacted by Bullock, Hanks and Thomas Horn. Oskar (Horn) is devoted to his father, who also cherishes him. Oskar is borderline Asperger's but his father embraces his quirks. They play games together and Thomas (Hanks) celebrates his son's brilliance.
When Thomas dies on 9/11 in the Twin Towers, Oskar is overwhelmed. Many months later he finds a key hidden in a bottle in his father's closet. He determines if he can find what lock the key opens then he can gain the closeness back he felt for his father. So off he goes through the streets of New York looking for "the lock."
At some point he is joined in his quest by "the renter" (von Sydow). This is a man who rents a room from Oskar's grandmother and doesn't speak. He communicates by writing. Oskar also meets a lady named Abby (Davis) who becomes very helpful to him.
It would seem this quest of Oskar's would be heart-wrenching but it isn't. The audience is held back by Oskar's determination and seemingly adult abilities. Horn is excellent as the boy but maybe he is too good at keeping Oskar's emotions under control.
There is also the problem of having a young boy navigate the streets of New York and its boroughs. What parent would ever let a child venture out in such a way? There is an explanation as to Linda's (Bullock) lack of concern but it doesn't ring true.
All of the acting in the film is good but none of the good acting is enough. There is a real lack of connectedness between the performances and this isolates each actor and insulates the audience from them. Stronger direction from Daldry would have improved this lack.
The movie is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence.
With all the star power this movie had going for it, its lack of entertainment value is shocking. It coulda, shoulda, ought to have been much better. It is a pity that it isn't.
I scored Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a far away 5 out of 10.