Adapting a literary drama into an emotional motion picture experience can be a challenging effort. In the case of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Stephen Daldry — the feller who made Billy Elliot — has taken the 2005 novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer and turned it into a brazen, near-exploitive tale of a young lad attempting to deal with the loss of his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. You don’t really expect to see exploitation filmmaking in mainstream cinema these days. Nevertheless, Daldry delivers a finished product that bears little more than a slight passing to its source material, having resorted to Academy Award winning screenwriter Eric Roth — who penned Forrest Gump, Ali, and several other overrated “masterpieces.”
If you can’t stand child actors, this one’ll grate at your nerves from frame one. First-time actor Thomas Horn, who won the role from being on Jeopardy!, believe it or not, takes the lead as Oskar — a neurotic, withdrawn youngster who shows some serious signs of having Asperger’s syndrome, and who is in desperate need of a guiding hand — across the face, that is. Horn definitely lives up to the Extremely Loud portion of this feature, shouting out one line after another as he wanders from one borough of New York to the next — by himself — in search of a lock that will fit a key he found in his father’s closet. Along the way, he develops a relationship with an old mute man (Max Von Sydow) who is staying with his grandmother, and who may or may not be the young lad’s long lost grandfather.
Mostly, it’s just a movie about a kid looking for something (think North, but only slightly better). The film pulls at your hamstrings from the get-go, trying to pull you in to the depths of an emotional pool it has constructed entirely out of forced tears. Daldry goes a step further by adding Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock to the film’s cast (giving them top-billing, of course) as Oskar’s late father and absente mother, respectively. The moments with Hanks are pretty generic (though sincere, I suppose), while Bullock’s character borders on laughable — stepping into the feature at the last moment to deliver a corny “Oh, I’ve been there the whole time!” routine. Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright also appear as two of the many characters Oskar meets, and John Goodman has a small role as a doorman.
Three short months after the movie’s theatrical release, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close finds its way to Blu-ray in High-Def presentation that far excels anything the portentous, Oscar-hungry director Daldry and his paint-by-numbers screenwriter Roth can come up with. Also included in this Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Digital Copy release are four behind-the-scenes featurettes, most of which are far more interesting than the main presentation itself.
No, of course I don’t recommend it. Why do you ask?