Credentials: 6.7 out of 10 (Imdb.com) / 47%, Certified Rotten (Rottentomatoes.com) / 46 out of 100 (Metacritic.com) / Nominated for Best Picture, 84th Annual Academy Awards (lol)
Plot: An extremely quirky, incredibly annoying and at times downright evil young boy named Oscar (Thomas Horn) loses his dad (Tom Hanks) to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One day while poking around in his dad’s old closet, the kid finds what he thinks is a clue in a treasure hunt game they used to play together. So, he sets out on a mission that takes him all over New York City as he tries to decipher the clue and find whatever it was his dad left behind for him. Along the way he meets an endless cast of equally quirky side characters that only exist in these kinds of nostalgia trips, treats his mother like dirt and plays the tambourine. A lot.
Why it stinks: If you’ve ever wondered just how dumb and useless the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is, well, here you go. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is 129 minutes of director Stephen Daldry and writer Eric Roth playing the Academy like a fiddle.
And yet, the Academy ate it all up and nominated it for Best Picture. Of course, the rest of the world isn’t that gullible, as evidenced by the decidedly split reviews “EL&IC” received. Thus, Daldry and Roth’s smoke and mirrors show enters the record books as one of the worst reviewed Best Picture nominees of all time.
Aside from the crappy writing and forced sappiness, one of the biggest culprits for why this movie stinks is lead child actor Thomas Horn. Let’s get this out of the way early, Imdb claims Oscar is supposed to be 9 year’s old during the events of the movie. The problem? Horn was 13 when the film was shot. Even the WB network wouldn’t try to play the kind of numbers game. It doesn’t work.
The end result of this awful casting decision is a clearly 13-year old boy walking around in extremely tight and incredibly short kiddie pajamas for long stretches of the movie. It’s weird.
Oscar’s look is all wrong, but his actions, which might seem innocent and forgivable for a 9-year old, seem malicious and vile coming from a clearly older kid.
Spoiler: On Sept. 11, Oscar comes home to find a series of missed calls and voicemails from his dad, who was trapped in one of the towers. Rather than share them with his mom and grandmom, Oscar steals the machine and hides it, keeping his father’s last words all for himself.
I could accept the confused logic behind this from a child, but Horn comes across like a huge a-hole.
It gets worse. At one point, Oscar tells his loving mother (Sandra Bullock), who never did a thing wrong, he wishes she died in the towers instead of his father. Bullock is a pro and she’s too good for this movie. The look on her face had me rooting that Oscar would get severely menaced by dope fiends during at least one of his rambling trips across NYC.
It’s an odd--- and I assume accidental--- strategy for a movie like this to spend so much time making you loathe its main character. Considering he’s in every scene and narrates the thing.
I haven’t even mentioned the tambourine Oscar carries around like the world’s most grating security blanket and shakes incessantly. It almost made the shrieking birds of “Birdemic” seem tolerable by comparison.
As for Tom Hanks, god do I love him, but his character sucks. The dad sucks because he’s not real. He’s a greeting card caricature of a person. He’s so pristine that he makes Gandhi look like Adolf Hitler. And Hanks brings his good-guy persona to an already saccharine character, pushing it out into previously unexplored levels of sweetness.
The ending is a massive cop out, making the entire movie seem like a waste of time. There’s also a useless and painfully transparent subplot about a “mysterious” outsider (Max Von Sydow), whose connection to the rest of the characters will likely be guessed by most within minutes of his first appearance.
Worst of the worst
When the kid tells his mom she should have died in 9/11 instead of the father, I almost chucked my laptop across the room. It’s a too-ugly, too-heavy moment in a movie that doesn’t have the backbone to support it.
There it is, proof that the Academy is just a bunch of old white guys who don’t know what they hell they’re doing. Although, we all already knew that anyway. Bumblebee tuna.