Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a so-so drama that fails to rise above its extremely long and forgetful title. It may appeal to those who read the book, liked the book, and are curious to see how it all plays out on the big screen. But I, for one, discovered that I’m just not ready to accept a fictional story that uses 9/11 for context. The movie is not exploitative or gratuitous in its treatment of that fateful day. It just feels “too soon” to go there. The marketing tag line says: “This is not a story about September 11th. It’s about every day after”, and to some extent, that’s true. I actually think this movie would have been better served as an indie with a different trigger for the plot-line. It could have been “inspired by” the best-selling book as opposed to “adapted from” it. Anyway…

First-time actor Thomas Horn (a former Kid’s Week champion on Jeopardy!) plays Oskar Schell, a possibly autistic boy whose father (Tom Hanks) dies in the collapse of the World Trade Center. A year later, still reeling from the loss, Oskar finds a key hidden among his father’s belongings. He’s convinced that his father meant for him to find the key – and the lock it goes to. So Oskar embarks on a mission/journey that takes him through the five boroughs and into the homes and businesses of a vast array of characters who are all struggling in one way or another. It kind of reminded me of Pay It Forward.

Oskar is distant with his mother (Sandra Bullock), but he does allow one person in on his plan: a mute old man (superbly played by Max von Sydow) who lives at his grandmother’s apartment building across the way.

The movie starts off slow – and stays that way for well over an hour – but it packs a powerful emotional punch in the end. If you could judge a movie by the number of tissues I massacre in the final five minutes, then Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close would get a thumbs-up. However, since the first two hours failed to bowl (or bawl) me over, I can only give it an “eh”.

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