While my wife was at a Tupperware party last weekend, I walked to the Madison Theatre in Albany to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. While ostensibly starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, the real lead is young Thomas Horn, as a quirky nine-year-old who starts a quixotic quest all over “New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.”
I was a couple minutes late, and the film (actually the previews) didn’t actually begin until the moment I walked in the room. Eventually three others also saw the film that showing.
The good news is that the flashback relationship between the boy and his father is compelling. The bad news is that the quest is too damn long and detailed. The story requires the boy, largely in monologue, to go from place to place, initially on foot. When he gets an unlikely assistant in his grandmother’s renter, it’s not much help, since the old man is unable to speak. The boy had been tested for Asperger’s syndrome, “but the results were inconclusive.” This is not to say that the actor was lacking, only that the story was.
During the trek, one of the people in the theatre started texting. While I found this incredibly rude, I could almost understand it. I swear the movie, which runs 2:09, could have trimmed 12 minutes of the search with little lost. Yet, in the end, there was a compelling and moving payoff. I just wish the movie had gotten to it sooner.
After I visualized this piece, I read Mick LaSalle’s review, and I realized that he said better than I the virtues and especially the flaws of the the movie. “Slog” is a good term. Yet, as he notes, “much of what is irritating, precious and tiresome about the movie recedes and drops away, while all the movie’s virtues, which are considerable, rise to consciousness. There are good things here – just be prepared to blast for them.”
This was nominated for Best Picture this week? Really?
Incidentally, the Entertainment Weekly has made note of some vague similarities between this film and Hugo – young man loses his father, and tries to find key/lock to solve the mystery of the father’s.
Thomas Horn was a Kids week winner on the game show JEOPARDY!, which aired 8 July 2010.