“Extremely Loud and Dangerously Close” [And Slightly Manipulative]

ELADC engages in trickery. First off, we are tricked into expecting a Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock movie—wrong! Yes, they are in the movie, but just a bit. It’s not really their movie; ELADC is really about the kid.

The kid is Oskar, played by the precocious Thomas Horn. Horn is one of the best kid actors since Haley Joel Osment amazed us in “The Sixth Sense.” His character is charming, articulate, intelligent, sweet and likeable. He’d better have all those qualities, because he’s in practically every scene.

The movie is manipulative in that Oskar’s dad (Tom Hanks) is killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. We hear his voicemail messages. We see images of the burning WTC buildings. Having seen replays of the event—and revisited some of the emotions of that fateful day—on the recent 10th anniversary of the attacks, we are primed to have a stronger emotional empathy for Oskar and his quest. I blame the novelist (on whose book the script is based) for tying this story to 9/11.

Oskar finds a key that had been apparently hidden away by his late father. He then begins a quest to find out who the key belongs to and its significance. The story of the quest would’ve been just as compelling without the 9/11 connection. (But maybe not so marketable. I call “cheap manipulation.”)

When the story is finally resolved, cue the tear ducts.

Oskar is a kid you want to hug and maybe even tousle his hair. Thomas Horn’s performance is excellent. But the story, to my sensibilities, falls short. (My wife, on the other hand, loved this movie.)

Also in the movie are Sandra Bullock as Oskar’s mom, Max Van Sydow as his “grandfather” and John Goodman as his building’s doorman.