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9 Reasons I Loathed “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

December 29, 2011

My daughter, Olive, was born on 9/10/01. The other day, she told me she wanted to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the new drama about a 9-year-old whose dad died on 9/11. Perhaps even more than other kids of her generation, she’s curious about the events that occurred that day. I had no intention of seeing the movie after suffering through the trailer numerous times. But I decided to preview it to see if it’s appropriate for Olive. Sorry, doll, but I wouldn’t recommend it to you—or anyone else. Here’s why.

9. Sandra Bullock is in it. I remember Sandy from high school. She was a cheerleader for our cross-town rival—and she was seriously cute. But I just can’t take her seriously as an actress. She should’ve stuck to playing plucky bus drivers and doing comatose rom-coms. The fact that she took home an Oscar for her syrupy, cornpone performance in The Blind Side, while, say, Glenn Close and Julianne Moore have never won one makes me crazy. Here, sporting the least flattering hairstyle since Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, she plays the least sympathetic mother since Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. But since it’s Sandy, we’re supposed to adore her. I didn’t.

8. Tom Hanks is (barely) in it. As the father, seen only in flashbacks, Hanks is supposed to be lovably quirky, the kind of guy who reads A Brief History of Time to his kid as a bedtime story, which seems like child abuse to me. Hanks is even more irksome here than he was in Larry Crowne—and that’s saying something.

7. James Gandolfini isn’t in it! He was billed in the original poster and the trailer, but if you’re hoping to see the Artist Formerly Known as Tony Soprano in the actual movie, fuhgeddaboudit! His role as a widower who meets Bullock in a support group got whacked on the cutting-room floor.

6. Max Von Sydow is in it—but he doesn’t speak. I love MVS: Who else could play both Jesus Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told and Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon? But one of his greatest gifts is his rich, milky voice. Still, as a mute who helps the young boy on his search to find a lock that fits the key his father left behind (a story much better-told in Hugo), Von Sydow is the best—no, make that the only good—thing about the movie.

5. John Goodman is wasted in it. Speaking of silent performances, Goodman gave a great one in The Artist, but he might as well have not had any lines in this movie either, since his role as a doorman is as useless as a broken elevator.

4. Stephen Daldry directed it. Stephen Dreary is more like it. He’s made three films—Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader—and inexplicably earned three Oscar nominations for Best Director. Here’s hoping this tone-deaf sapfest breaks the streak.

3. The kid is extremely lame and incredibly cloying. First of all, 14-year-old Thomas Horn is way too old to pass for 9. Second of all, the Teen Jeopardy! champ—making his film-acting debut—is all-too-convincing as Oskar Schell, a pesky know-it-all who spouts random facts, like that humans are the only creatures who cry tears. You want to slap him until he proves it.

2. The movie was extremely loud and incredibly close. Because I had to wait in line 20 minutes for my now-traditional hot dog and Coke Zero dinner at the sole small theater where Extremely Loud is playing in Manhattan, the only seat available was on the second-row aisle. That didn’t help, but this movie would suck from any angle.

1. It reduces 9/11 to a cheap, tearjerking device. There’s no such thing as “too soon” if material is handled intelligently; Denis Leary and Peter Tolan’s Rescue Me unearthed seven brilliant years of stories from the ashes of the World Trade Center. I didn’t read Jonathan Safran Foer’s original novel, but Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth (who also penned Hanks’ moronic Forrest Gump, which was just ridiculously added to the National Film Registry), alternately trivialize and sanitize “the worst day,” as Oskar incessantly calls it. This much I know: Sitting through all 129 brutally sentimental minutes of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close felt like my worst day.

Will you see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? And, c’mon, Forrest Gump?

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26 Comments
  1. Matt Stewart permalink

    I have heard so many good things about this (from fans, not critics, lol) I simply must see it, but I will certainly take your list into account when doing so!

    On the note of your last point, I think United 93 was also a brilliant piece of film making on the topic of 9/11!

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Go at your own risk! And let me know what you think…

  2. I have a son born in July of the same year as yours (2001) and he holds no interest in the events of that day so I’m a little impressed with yours … That said, I am not interested in this film so I appreciate your giving me specific talking points that I can use to avoid being dragged to it.

  3. No, I won’t go see this sapfest, thanks for saving 129 minutes of my time.

  4. Steve Megremis permalink

    I have zero interest in seeing this film. I completely understand why Olive would be interested, given her birthday was 9-10-01, etc. But to be honest, and this might piss off a few New Yorkers, 9/11 is more overhyped than Lebron James (is that even possible?), and this feels like just another feeble attempt at eliciting tears.

    On a side note, Bruce, I had no idea that you knew Bullock in high school. I bet she was incredibly annoying back then. I can’t stand her. When she won the Oscar for having been cheated on by Jesse James, I almost puked.

    ‘America’s Sweetheart’ my ass! – ‘America’s Most Annoying Actress’ is much closer to the truth.

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Hey Steve–Can’t say I agree with you about 9/11 being “overhyped,” but I am one of those New Yorkers—er, New Jerseyans. But we agree about Bullock!

    • @Steve Magremis: To be fair, news that Jesse James cheated on Bullock didn’t break until a few days after she won the Oscar. Hell, she thanked him from the podium.

  5. Steve Megremis permalink

    Perhaps I should explain my 9/11 comment further before the throngs turn on me. It has something to do with ‘Equitable Sympathy.’

    I was angry, upset, irrational, thirsty for revenge after 9/11. You name it, I felt it. But with time, I got over it, and began to think about all the other innocent people killed every day in this country, whose families never got a memorial, or a check for their suffering, or a prayer.

    That’s all I meant by my ‘overhyped’ comment.

  6. Steve Megremis permalink

    Bruce, I rented ‘Catch 44’ last night and liked it. Nothing earth-shattering, but very watchable and a GREAT soundtrack. Forest Whitaker was outstanding. Then I read a few reviews and saw that it was pounded by the critics. Yes, it had a few-too-many Tarantino moments, but overall a good piece of work from a first-time director.

    We also rented The Beaver with Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson and really enjoyed it. I’m not a big fan of either of them, but was pleasantly surprised by this film.

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Can’t say I agree about The Beaver, but I’ll check out Catch 44!

  7. You say tomato, I say tomahto. Or maybe it’s sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Whatever; I loved this movie. I thought it was powerful, emotional, and felt at once real and magical. I’m taking my gang to see it this weekend. But, then, I didn’t know Bullock in high school.

  8. CTNatalie permalink

    “The kid is extremely lame and incredibly cloying. …You want to slap him until he proves it.” Jeez, dude, that’s harsh. I think you’re a hilarious writer, but writing something so mean about someone who’s only 14 years old is not cool. He’s still a kid. What if a famous critic wrote something mean like that about your daughter and posted it on the internet for the whole world to read?

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