A Man Called Otto movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)


A Man Called Otto movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert (1)

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In Marc Forster’s genial, earnest yet unremarkable dramedy “A Man Called Otto,” the titular character Otto can’t pick his daily battles even if his life depended on it. Living in an unfussy suburban neighborhood of identical row houses somewhere in the Midwest, the aging man gets easily annoyed by every little misstep of a stranger. And his protests are so pronounced that they even rival Larry David’s in an average episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Portrayed by the beloved Tom Hanks in an indistinct performance that splits the difference between quirky and grounded, Otto is often right about his grievances, to his credit. Why should he pay for six feet of rope and waste a few extra cents, for instance, when he bought just a little over five? Why shouldn’t he warn inconsiderate drivers who often block garage doors or entitled neighbors who can’t as much as remember to close a gate and respect basic rules about trash disposal? Or pick up a fuss when the soulless real estate guys from the fictional and hilariously named “Dye & Merica” show up to sabotage the community’s peace?


Then again, not everything is as awful as Otto makes them out to be. And he could perhaps afford to have some manners himself, especially when a new, very pregnant neighbor drops by with a bowl of home-cooked meal as a courtesy.

If you’ve already seen 2015’s Oscar-nominated Swedish hit “A Man Called Ove” by Hannes Holm, a film that is not any better or worse than this middle-of-the-road American remake (yes, not all originals are automatically superior), you’ll know that Otto hasn’t always been this insufferable. In small doses of syrupy and visually overworked flashbacks, Forster and agile screenwriter David Magee show us that he was socially awkward even from his young days, but at least nice and approachable. With a squarely unstylish side-part haircut that aptly gives out a “nice but unworldly guy” vibe, young Otto (played by the star’s own son, Truman Hanks) had an interest in engineering, in figuring out how things work. His life apparently changed when he accidentally met the dreamy Sonya (Rachel Keller), who later on became his wife and passed away recently.

As was the case in “Ove,” Otto can’t wait to join his wife on the other side, but his frequent suicide attempts get interrupted in episodes that are sometimes awkwardly funny, and other times, just plain awkward. The chief interrupters of our get-off-my-lawn guy are the abovementioned new neighbors: the happily married-with-kids couple Marisol (a bubbly and scene-stealing Mariana Treviño, the absolute best thing about the film) and Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Ruflo), who often ask little favors from the grumpy Otto. There are also others in the neighborhood, like a kindly transgender teenager Malcolm (Mack Bayda) thrown out of his house by his dad, the fitness-obsessed Jimmy (Cameron Britton), Otto’s old friend Rueben (Peter Lawson Jones), and his wife Anita (Juanita Jennings), who are no longer on cordial terms with Otto. And let’s not forget a stray cat that no one seems to know what to do with for a while.

The mystery is that none of the supporting personalities in this story can take a hint about Otto, at least not well into the film’s second act. Instead, all the characters collectively treat Otto with patience and acceptance, as if he isn’t being willfully rude to them every chance he gets. For example, it’s anyone’s guess why Otto’s work colleagues bother to throw him a retirement party when it will surely go unappreciated or why Marisol continuously insists on trying to bring out the good side of him when Otto offensively shuts down every one of her genuine attempts.


Still, the story manages to land some charms when Otto finally lets his guard down and starts making all the expected amends, while suffering a rare heart condition on the side. First, he becomes a local hero when he unwittingly saves someone’s life in front of a group of unhelpful people too preoccupied with their phones. Later on, he racks up additional goodwill when he takes Malcolm in and builds a slow yet steady friendship with Marisol, a rewarding storyline in an otherwise predictable tale.

But the biggest win of Forster’s adaptation is its worthwhile message about the small wins of everyday people who operate as a functioning and harmonious community against the evils of faceless corporations. “A Man Called Otto” isn’t exactly as philosophical as “About Schmidt” or as socially conscious as “I, Daniel Blake,” two films that occasionally hit similar notes. But it’s nevertheless a wholesome crowd-pleaser for your next family gathering.

In limited release now, wide on January 13th.

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Film Credits

A Man Called Otto movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert (9)

A Man Called Otto (2022)

Rated PG-13

126 minutes


Tom Hanksas Otto Anderson

Mariana Treviñoas Marisol

Kailey Hymanas Barb

Rachel Keller

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Cameron Britton

Mike Birbiglia

Elle Chapmanas Sarah


  • Marc Forster


  • David Magee


  • Matt Chesse

Director of Photography

  • Matthias Koenigswieser


  • Fredrik Backman

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A Man Called Otto movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)


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Roger Ebert's Four-Star Films
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  • 12 Angry Men (1957) Approved | 96 min | Crime, Drama. ...
  • 127 Hours (2010) ...
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What is the moral of the story "A man called Otto"? ›

Life is too hard for us to do by ourselves. We need support from family, friends and neighbors to get through hard times and to bring joy to our lives. No matter where we live and what we do in life, we are part of a community. And reaching out to each other is what helps us get through life.

What happened to Siskel and Ebert? ›

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who went on the air together for the first time in 1975, have been off the air for a long time now. Siskel died in 1999, and Ebert bowed out in 2011, two years before his death. But, for many people, they remain the very exemplars of film criticism.

Were Siskel and Ebert friends? ›

Film critics Siskel and Ebert couldn't stand each other. That's what made their show great. Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert, photographed in Los Angeles in 1986, had a contentious relationship that made their TV shows about movie criticism major hits, as chronicled in Matt Singer's new book, “Opposable Thumbs.”

Has any movie gotten 5 stars? ›

Ranking films is hard, but Screen Rant attempts it with its 5-star films — movies that received the rare perfect score, including Up & Inception.

How many stars does Roger Ebert give? ›

He awarded four stars to films of the highest quality, and generally a half star to those of the lowest, unless he considered the film to be "artistically inept and morally repugnant", in which case it received no stars, as with Death Wish II.

What happened to the baby in A Man Called Otto? ›

He prepares to commit suicide by shotgun, remembering the bus crash on a romantic trip to Niagara Falls that caused a pregnant Sonya to lose her baby and become a paraplegic. Malcolm, who was kicked out by his father, knocks on the door, and Otto lets him stay the night.

Why is the movie A Man Called Otto sad? ›

The community's refusal to adjust to accommodate Sonya turns Otto into the more reclusive, grumpy man in the later scenes, and he's left with no one after Sonya's death. Although Otto considers taking his own life on many occasions, he's reminded of Sonya's wish for him to “keep living” despite his trauma.

Does a man named Otto end happy? ›

A Man Called Otto has a happy ending, with Otto finally realizing the value of community and his purpose in life.

What were Roger Ebert's final words? ›

Sometime ago, I heard that Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, talked about Roger's last words. He died of cancer in 2013. “Life is but a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Did Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel get along? ›

The pair were also known for their intense debate, often drawing sharp criticisms at each other. Ebert reminisced about the experience saying: Gene Siskel and I were like tuning forks, Strike one, and the other would pick up the same frequency.

How old was Ebert when he died? ›

On April 4, 2013, one of America's best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after battling cancer.

Can Roger Ebert talk? ›

When film critic Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw to cancer, he lost the ability to eat and speak. But he did not lose his voice.

Who took over for Siskel and Ebert? ›

Richard E. Roeper (born October 17, 1959) is an American columnist and film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. He co-hosted the television series At the Movies with Roger Ebert from 2000 to 2008, serving as the late Gene Siskel's successor.

What movie did both Siskel and Ebert Rate #1 in 1972? ›

Gene SiskelRoger Ebert
1. The Godfather1. The Godfather
2. The Sorrow and the Pity2. Chloe in the Afternoon
3. Le Boucher3. Le Boucher
4. Cabaret4. Murmur of the Heart
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How many movies did Roger Ebert give 4 stars? ›

In fact, the famous critic gave nearly 1,000 movies 4-star reviews in his 46 year career writing for The Chicago Sun Times, many of which have long since dropped from the collective consciousness.

What award did Roger Ebert win? ›

Roger Ebert (born June 18, 1942, Urbana, Illinois, U.S.—died April 4, 2013, Chicago, Illinois) was an American film critic, perhaps the best known of his profession, who became the first person to receive a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism (1975).

Who recently became the first actor to have 4 movies that have grossed over $2 billion at the box office? ›

Zoe Saldaña Becomes First Actor to Have 4 Movies Make Over $2 Billion at Box Office.

Are movies rated out of 4 stars? ›

1–4: Film critic Leonard Maltin rates films on a scale of one through four stars, although his guide notes that there is no actual "one star" rating. For these "bottom-of-the-barrel movies", Maltin's guide uses the citation "BOMB".

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