Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: +2

Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, Jeffery Wright, John Goodman. Drama. Written by Eric Roth. Directed by Stephen Daldry.

FILM SYNOPSIS: After his beloved father dies in the Trade Center Towers on 9/11, Oskar becomes obsessed with finding the answer to a hidden message his dad left behind. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can't be seen, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father's closet.

PREVIEW REVIEW: There are two films here, one about a boy coming to terms with the loss of a parent, the other being about a gifted oddball child trying to find himself. Sadly, for me, the two fictional dramas didnít blend well with the factual 9/11 as backdrop.

Some at the screening were sniffling, trying their best to hold back tears, but to me the plot development seemed contrived, the production itself was somewhat sterile, the lead character too off-putting (yeah, those might be the problems). As for the grownups, several tried to breathe life into their roles, but I could see them acting. Knowing their pedigree, I can only assume that they werenít given enough guidance by their director, the exception being Max von Sydow (Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told, and now looking more like an ancient deity), who comes the closest to true emoting.

Young Thomas Horn can memorize dialogue, but while playing an overly gifted child, he comes across more as a adolescent Adrian Monk (Monk), cold and often indifferent to the feelings of others. On TV that character was enjoyable thanks to the actor playing him and the humorous dialogue written for him, but, in reality, living with such an obsessive-compulsive would become tedious. Master Horn becomes tedious quickly and stays that way throughout.

I found the boyís quirkiness annoying rather than enhancing. For example, in three or four scenes, he uses obscenities in a sort of rhythmic putdown toward the doorman, who responds in turn. At first weíre shocked by this comic putdown as it is the only offensive language in the picture, but it plays smart-alecky and fails to be an interesting characteristic. Itís more of a contrivance. Whatís more, thereís no resolve by filmís end indicating a true affection between the two.

Because the film deals with 9/11 and a devastated child desperately trying to cling to the memory of his father, my comments must sound a bit Scrooge-like. Believe me, I wanted to like this film. But unlike, for an example, To Kill a Mockingbird, which dealt with a child discovering the realities of life, the emotional drive of EL&IC is forced and too eccentric for its own good.

At 129 minutes itís also too long for the premise. The first sequences, which tried to show the relationship between father and son, added nothing and could easily have been cut without adversely affecting the plot or the presentation of the familyís relationship. And then thereís the opening shot, a slow motion view of a manís flailing hands and feet as if he is falling. Later we learn the father may have jumped from the building, but, in reflection of that shot, it did little to bring home the horror faced by the victims of the terroristic attack. It does nothing to set the mood, nor does it affect us emotionally. Itís just there. No scene in a movie should just be there. (In fairness to the filmmaker, Iím sure he had a reason. Well, Iím almost sure.)

Iíve seen two films dealing with 9/11 that emotionally impacted me concerning the events of that day: The Guys and United 93. I offer them up as DVD alternatives.

The Guys (2003), is the moving and unexpectedly humorous film about a New York City journalist (Sigourney Weaver) called upon to help a fire captain (Anthony LaPaglia) write a series of eulogies for the men he lost on 9/11. This production is not a downer. You will be emotionally touched, certainly, but itís not about the tragedy so much as the human spiritís ability to endure when aided by others.

United 93 (2006) is an intense reenactment of the actions of 9/11/01 aboard the hijacked flight bound for Washington D.C. Told from the perspectives of the passengers, the flight crew and those monitoring the plane, the film shows how complete strangers united against a common enemy. The film is a cautionary tale that states, ďUnited we stand, divided we fall.Ē Itís not a faultless film. Clunky acting, profane language and spasmodic cinematography are distracting at times, but it is one of the most potent films Iíve seen since The Passion of the Christ. Perhaps thatís because itís about something that affects us all. In a time when even members of our own nation are quick to point out the faults and foibles of America, assessing that we are ultimately the problem with the world, hereís a film that reminds viewers that we are the home of the brave, a people who look at a problem and resolve to fix it. While watching this film, you gain a true respect for the passengers of that ill-fated flight and the people on the ground who were determined to do their job and protect their countrymen.

CAUTION: Beware, United 93 is justly rated R. While I include this film for its potent message, it does contain harsh and profane language. Itís not for kids, and if youíve drawn the line when it comes to R-rated movies, then you may wish to pass on this one.

Preview Reviewer: phil Boatwright
Paramount / Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: The boy has three scenes wherein he uses crude and offensive words as a sort of byplay with the apartment doorman.

Obscene Language: The boy has three scenes wherein he uses crude and offensive words as a sort of byplay with the apartment doorman.

Profanity: I caught none.

Violence: We see pictures of a person jumping from one of the towers; the boy is troubled, to the point that he inflicts bruises on himself; at one point, the boy freaks out and throws things to the floor, hurling hateful remarks at his mother.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: None

Running Time: 129 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers.

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