‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’: Contrived premise makes film only average

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, January 18, 2012 7:10pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The basic idea of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” involves a kid who runs around New York City looking for a lock that might possibly fit the mysterious key his father has left behind.

It sounds like the premise for an interesting kids’ book.

Add the fact that the father died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and that the kid is a sort of borderline autistic-savant who fears public transportation and must carry around a tambourine to calm his nerves, and you can see how the movie begins to veer off in its own direction.

The source is a novel, though not a kids’ book, by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Possibly the idea worked well enough on the page, but it has a few plausibility issues in director Stephen (“Billy Elliot”) Daldry’s film.

The boy is Oskar, played by newcomer Thomas Horn. The terrorist attack of Sept. 11 happens fairly early in the movie, but we continue to see Oskar’s father (Tom Hanks) in flashbacks for the rest of the picture; Sandra Bullock plays the patient but not-very-present mother.

The key is in an envelope marked “black,” which leads Oskar to find every person named Black in the surrounding area. The movie would’ve been much briefer if the name had only been Kleinfelter or Zog or something.

So we tag along with Oskar trundling around the boroughs of NYC, as he goes to the homes of strangers, rings their doorbells, and invites himself in.

Yes, I know — this made me anxious, too. This kid is lucky not to end up on the side of a milk carton.

One of his contacts is the boarder (Max von Sydow) at his grandmother’s house, a man who chooses not to speak, which makes him a good match for the hyperactive Oskar.

Other folks passing through the tale are played by Viola Davis (late of “The Help”), Jeffrey Wright and John Goodman.

As for the leading man, Thomas Horn is very credible in his first film role. He’s best known as a winner on the kid version of “Jeopardy!” and his brainy qualities are part of the character here.

For a while, the movie is effective, and the close but challenging dynamic between father and son is nicely turned. Tom Hanks doesn’t have much screen time here, but it’s worth noting that he’s remarkably fine and honest in the scenes he has.

I just couldn’t buy Oskar’s city-trekking, nor the strong-arm way we are eventually made to feel about all this. But mostly it’s the contrived premise itself that makes the movie falter, a sense that everything here is forced, and not quite existing in a known universe — even a movie universe — that rings true.

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” 2 stars

When a boy loses his father (Tom Hanks) on Sept. 11, 2001, he occupies his mind by searching for the answer to a mystery left behind. This movie is well acted by Hanks and newcomer Thomas Horn, but its premise is so contrived it stops making much impact after a while. With Sandra Bullock.

Rating: PG-13, for subject matter.

Opening: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Stanwood, Meridian, Metro, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.

Talk to us

More in Life

Ash was rescued along with Dexter, just before his euthanasia date. (Luisa Loi / Whidbey News-Times)
Whidbey Island woman rescues 300 German shepherds

“Can I save them all? No,” Renee Carr, of Oak Harbor said. “But I’m gonna try my hardest.”

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Most Read