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)


What was the last movie Roger Ebert reviews? ›

The last review by Ebert published during his lifetime was for the film The Host, which was published on March 27, 2013. The last review Ebert wrote was for To the Wonder, which he gave 3.5 out of 4 stars in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times. It was posthumously published on April 6, 2013.

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 is the main idea of the man called Otto? ›

It's about a man who is 'very bad at dying', having unsuccessfully attempted suicide on many occasions. But Otto's life is given new meaning when a young family moves in next door to him and manages to change his life. The movie is about love, life, loss and new hope.

What's the most stars Roger Ebert gives? ›

The late great Roger Ebert acknowledged this in his review of the film, awarding it his famous and highest rating of four stars, making it the last film to receive such an honor from arguably the most influential film critic of the past fifty years.

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.

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.

What are the critics saying about A Man Called Otto? ›

A Man Called Otto Reviews

A Man Called Otto is not a waste of time by any stretch, but it also does not demand your attention in any strong measure.

Why did they change the movie to A Man Called Otto? ›

A Man Called Otto Changes Were Due To Setting

In the original movie, Ove resided in Sweden, whereas Otto lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Given the circ*mstances of the remake's new location, it makes sense that Ove's name was changed to Otto, who is Ove's American counterpart.

What happened to Otto's wife Sonya? ›

The film opens six months after Otto's cherished wife Sonya (Rachel Keller) has died of cancer. In flashbacks, we learn how Sonya and Otto met, all they loved about each other, and the horrific crisis they faced together.

What is the psychology of the man called Otto? ›

Otto becomes an independent person and rarely relies on others because he is capable of doing many different things. Otto has a strong sense of purpose, which makes him determined and strong-willed. Otto is compulsive need for change, he cannot see something out of place or when someone makes a mistake.

What is the difference between A Man Called Ove and A Man Called Otto? ›

Differences Between 'A Man Called Otto' & 'A Man Called Ove'

In Otto, the characters speak English and live in America rather than talk in Swedish and reside in Sweden. These surface-level adjustments are why the character of Ove is now called Otto (Tom Hanks) in the American remake.

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.

What is the most reliable movie review site? ›

Rotten Tomatoes and the Tomatometer score are the world's most trusted recommendation resources for quality entertainment. As the leading online aggregator of movie and TV show reviews from critics, we provide fans with a comprehensive guide to what's Fresh – and what's Rotten – in theaters and at home.

Why did Roger Ebert win a Pulitzer Prize? ›

He was the only one to win a Pulitzer Prize. Roger Ebert had three qualities that are necessary for a great critic: (1) he was deeply knowledgeable and passionate about his medium (film), (2) he was a gifted writer, and (3) he understood his audience.

Who did Roger Ebert marry? ›

Chaz Ebert (born Charlie Hammel; October 15, 1952) is an American businesswoman. She is best known as the wife and widow of film critic Roger Ebert, having been married to him from 1992 until his death in 2013.

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