Tom Hanks as a bad-tempered neighbor from hell? Now that’s hard to imagine!

But in A Man Called Otto, Hollywood’s Mr. Nice Guy becomes irascible Otto Anderson, a bitter and isolated widower.

Adrift and depressed, Otto seems to hate everyone and everything in his orbit, and he makes it clear that he wants only to be left alone to rigidly enforce the association rules on the block where he lives.

In his railing against his immediate world, Anderson seems to almost take a perverse pleasure in harassing and criticizing his exasperated suburban neighbors.

Nobody, it seems, is immune from his often-irrational wrath. In one scene, he yells at a UPS delivery driver, “You can’t use this road without a permit!” As she drives away, Otto runs alongside her vehicle, shouting, “The other guys don’t do this, the guys with the white truck!”

When not spewing copious amounts of venom, he spends time at the gravesite of his wife, where he leaves flowers and has poignant, one-way chats with her.

Anderson appears to be permanently set in his ways, but things change after a boisterous young family moves in next door. The curmudgeon meets his match when he is forced to deal with quick-witted (and pregnant) Marisol (Mariana Covino), a single mother with two spunky young daughters.

Otto eventually becomes involved with the trio on a regular basis. Their spending time together slowly evolves into an unlikely friendship that flips the grump’s world on its head, changes his perception of life, and even causes him to stop attempting his planned suicide that the pesky new neighbors keep interfering with.

At one point, Marisol tells him, “You think you have to do everything on your own. Guess what? No one can.”

And even though he chases off dogs who might pee on his lawn, Anderson does allow a scroungy gray cat to adopt him.

“This film is about community and family,” Hanks told People magazine. “The way you treat your own neighbors, the way people can come together in any time of crisis.”

A Man Called Otto is an adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s bestselling 2012 Swedish novel A Man Called Ove, which as a movie became a box-office sensation in 2015. (At the 89th Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.) Ove is now the third most-watched Swedish movie in that country’s history.

The current offering was directed by Mark Forster (The Kite Runner, World War Z), with David McGee (Life of Pi) handling the scriptwriting.

A Man Called Otto premieres nationwide Jan. 13.


Randal C. Hill enjoys getting sneak peeks of forthcoming movies from his home on the Oregon coast. He can be reached at

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