‘A Man Called Otto’ has me wishing someone would ban remaking wonderful classics

By Kathryn McDonald

In 2012, Forum published Fredrik Backman’s novel “A Man Called Ove.” Originally written in Swedish, the book was translated into English in 2013 and eventually gained widespread popularity. When the 2015 Swedish movie adaptation of the book was released it was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling. 

Now, in 2023, American audiences have their own film adaptation in English starring Tom Hanks in the leading role. As an interesting note, in flashback scenes, Otto was played by Tom Hanks’ son, Truman Hanks. 

The story followed the experiences of Otto a few months after his wife’s death. His early years were explored in a series of flashbacks that take place as Otto saw his life flash before him during several close encounters with death. Otto’s prickly exterior was not a deterrent for his new neighbors who befriended him and “adopted” him into their family.  Through the course of the movie, this grumpy old man shared his story and was challenged to find a greater and better reason to live. 

What I liked about this movie most was the idea that community transforms individuals in a positive way. Neighborhoods are more frequently home to strangers than they are to friends, and this movie challenged that in a positive way. It asked the question, “What kind of impact can you make when you look for people to love?” 

Otto’s neighborhood friends were a testament to the beauty of friendship. 

Whenever a remake of a movie debuts, audiences who are familiar with the original are often wary of those who wish to change or adapt the classic story. The hope is that the fresh take will draw audiences in further and add depth or artistry. 

Sadly, this remake failed in these regards. Although it had its bright spots, there was no moment in this movie that managed to surpass the original in its depth or artistry. It lacked everything that made the original film so enchanting and compelling. In fact, it had changes that made me wonder how this was more appealing to American audiences. Are the standards for excellent filmmaking really that low? 

The music seemed to overpower the more meaningful moments with a Hallmark style that lacked finesse. Changes to the plot and several scenes cheapened some of my favorite moments in the story. Even subtle details were changed in an unmasked attempt at virtue signaling. 

Some scenes felt a little bit overplayed. 

Despite the frustrating changes, there was still nothing more disappointing than the constant product placement throughout the film. It distracted me from the film to the point where I was left wondering if this was a commercial or a movie. What could have been a beautiful remake of an inspiring story devolved into a disastrous marketing campaign for Chevrolet cars.

If you are interested in watching this movie and you are unfamiliar with the 2015 film version, I would encourage you to watch that instead of this new adaptation. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, I think that the original film is a thousand times better. Please don’t waste your time and money on this sloppy remake. 

As a caution to families who may be interested in watching either movie, there were several intense scenes involving suicidal ideation and several graphic suicide attempts. The newer film also included a transgender character which may necessitate some discussion with younger children and teens. 

“A Man Called Otto” is showing in theaters.

Kathryn McDonald is a senior Psychology major and writer for the Arts and Entertainment section of Cedars. You can probably catch her writing a letter to a friend in the library or drinking coffee from her favorite mug. When she is not at her desk studying, she is probably on her phone catching up with friends or reading her favorite volumes of American poetry.

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures.

2 Replies to "‘A Man Called Otto’ has me wishing someone would ban remaking wonderful classics"

  • comment-avatar
    Janice Short January 28, 2023 (12:31 am)

    Dear Ms. McDonald,

    I could not agree with you more.
    I loved the book and the original movie, “A Man Called Ove.”

    When I first saw an advertisement for “A Man Called Otto,” I felt an immediate annoyance. Tom Hanks, for goodness sake…

    I do not plan on viewing the remake. I prefer to remember the range of emotions I felt as I watched the remarkably touching Swedish version. It was everything I hope to experience when I see a film, and I do not want to sully my fond memories by seeing the result of what happens when you mess with perfection.

    My best regards,
    Janice Short

  • comment-avatar
    Jean January 28, 2023 (4:23 pm)

    I read the book. As usual, movies have to condense the details into a format where we get most of the information without having a movie 4 hours long. The “product placement” didn’t feel gratuitous to me…I thought it was humorous.

    I wish people would go into a movie hoping to be entertained rather than a lesson in compare and contrast. Can’t people like both movies?

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