"Extremely Loud" Is This Generation's "Pay It Forward", And That's No Compliment

"Extremely Loud" Is This Generation's "Pay It Forward", And That's No Compliment


Genre: Drama

Premise: After the death of his father (Tom Hanks) on 9/11, Oskar (Thomas Horn), who falls somewhere on the Autism spectrum, finds a key in an envelope marked "Black" in his dad's closet, and decides to meet with everyone in the city with that last name in order to unlock the mystery behind the key.

Behind-the-Scenes: Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Horn makes his acting debut - before this, he was known for winning Kids Week on Jeopardy.  Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader) directs.  Just received surprise (cough, undeserved, cough) Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor.

The Good:  High production values, typical for a Scott Rudin-produced film.  Max Von Sydow gives a tender, nuanced performance as a man who doesn't speak and helps Oskar out on his "journey."

The Bad:  Where to begin?  The 9/11 subplot feels forced and unnecessary, and maybe a little exploitative too.  Daldry's attempt to convey Autism visually on screen is a mess, and so misguided, it's almost laughable.  There is a huge stretch in the middle where absolutely nothing of importance is happening, and the movie meanders.  Horn is an annoying screen presence - nearly intolerable to watch.  The thesis - that we are all connected through tragedy and New York City is made up of a variety of individuals, each with their own story to tell - was done 100 times better in a two-minute montage from 25th Hour (the bathroom mirror scene, for those in the know).  In fact, for a more subtle, piercing examination of America post-9/11, just watch 25th Hour period.  The final shot - a freeze frame of Oskar swinging - is beyond cheesy.  Same goes for the last few scenes, where everyone Oskar meets is visibly touched by letters he sends them.  This is the most emotionally false "feel-good" studio drama I've seen since Pay It Forward.

Should You See It?:  Yes, because it's nominated for Best Picture.  But you're just going to end up hating the Academy for nominating it.  Could this finally be the year that a movie nominated for Best Picture is also nominated for a Razzie?

Rating: *1/2 out of 5 stars.

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