Monday, February 20, 2012

Extremely Annoying & Incredibly Inane

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close       WWW Score: 30%

Making movies about 9/11 is risky business. Some six years ago, 'United 93' received critical recognition but wasn't a massive monetary success. The American public doesn't seem to have, nor may ever have, soaring interest in seeing a film that features that horrific day as its focal point. Leave it to 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' to take the box office poison and up the potency, not only does it revolve around one of the darkest days in the history of mankind, it's one of the worst movies of recent note.

You'd think creating a film that's really, really, really bad would be made reasonably difficult with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock in the cast but neither is the centerpiece, that falls on newcomer Thomas Horn. Whether it's Horn's doing or the script's, his character, Oskar Schell, is utterly unlikable. He comes off as a colossally precocious know-it-all, incessantly bashing you over the head with maddeningly annoying smarter-than-thou quips - the former 'Jeopardy!' kids' champ sounds more like Stephen Hawking than a supposed 11-year-old. Oskar is on a treasure hunt of sorts, trying to uncover why the heck his deceased dad (Hanks) had a key stashed in a vase at the top of pop's closet. The key packed inside an envelope marked "Black" so naturally Oskar decides to visit the 472 people that he digs up in the NYC white pages named "Black". But as the prodigy points out, "there were 216 different addresses because some of the Blacks lived together, obviously". "Obviously" Oskar? I never knew the phone company lists all the members of a family in the phone book rather than just the head of the household. Fuzzy math aside, regrettably for the moviegoer, the majority of folks still had landlines in the early 2000's thus permitting the painfully protracted process to proceed.

Young Oskar sets out on foot tapping his tension-calming tambourine whilst meeting "Blacks" of all eccentricities: spiritual guides, transvestites, the OCD-afflicted - all in an effort to track down the answer to the key conundrum. Along the way, he gets an assist from his grandma's rather odd room-renter (Max von Sydow), a gent that eschews speaking in favor of writing his words on a seemingly never-depleting notepad. There's a riotous scene in which "The Renter" hands a stack of notes to a bartender who then reads them to Oskar, what's on those pieces of 4x6 paper could pass for a novella - near miraculous given the time constraints "Renter" was under. If it's not clear by now, it's a spectacularly hokey story.

But while both the narrative and Oskar's narration of it are maddening, director Stephen Daldry ('The Reader') manages to up the ante with a bombastic bombardment of buffoonery. His blitzkrieg of Oskar's phobias could be considered seizure-inducing and he pulls the same rapid fire stunt attempting to put the proverbial bow on things at the film's completion. Once endured, you'll better understand the mindset for hurling rotten fruit and veggies at the screen.

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' is a mawkishly manipulative mess; as Oskar opines about his father's casket: "it's just an empty box" - the same charge the film's guilty of.