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Capone's full review of the Worst Film of 2011: EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

This film tied (along with LARRY CROWNE) for my Worst Film of 2011, so you already know we're not starting from a good place. Explaining exactly why this film is worthy of such pure and unadulterated loathing is not the easiest job I've had, but lord knows I'm game. Right out of the gate, let's start with the character of Oskar Schell (played by newcomer Thomas Horn, who was discovered after appearing on "Jeopardy"), the 11-year-old son of Thomas (Tom Hanks), a New York eccentric who likes to send his child on mini-adventures and treasure hunts of his own making. Quite frankly, I hate stories about people/families like this because I don't believe they actually exist on the planet earth. Regardless, EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE flashes back between a time when the family was together and a time after "The Worst Day" (as Oskar calls it), meaning September 11, 2001. You see, it just so happens Thomas worked in the World Trade Center and died on that day.

All of these adventures are meant to force the sensitive pacifist Oskar confront his fears head on, but with dad gone and mom Linda (Sandra Bullock) a complete wreck, Oskar must force himself to find a mystery to solve, which he does when he finds a key hidden in a vase in his father's closet. The key is in an envelope with a name on it, and Oskar looks up every person in New York City with the same last name to see if he can discover what the key unlocks. Oskar is using the mystery to avoid confronting his loss (duh), and avoid playing his mother several terrified messages his father left on their answering machine just before he died.

Oskar has encounters with such dignitaries as Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, and Max von Sydow (there's no way this guy is getting an Oscar recognition, so stop saying he will) during the course of his hunt, all with quirky, sometimes annoying results. But mostly his meetings with various people with the same last name are a series of weirdly pleasant exchanges to lead nowhere. I don't get any kind of cheap thrill picking on kids, but Thomas Horn is a terrible actor; I don't want to call him annoying because that might be the way Oskar is written, but dammit, I wanted to throttle the twerp pretty much for the whole movie.

The thing I kept thinking while watching EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is that I could see it working better as a novel, which it is. But something went horribly wrong in the transition from Jonathan Safran Foer's book to Eric Roth's adaptation to Stephen (THE READER, THE HOURS) Daldry's directed work, and the result is a disaster of the highest order. This film is so spectacularly bad that the bar for pretentious, deep-thoughts movies has been lowered roughly the length of my middle finger.

And then comes this scene at the end with Davis, Wright, and the kid that actually is kind of interesting and moody, but it's so painfully out of place in this movie that I wanted to murder the rest of the film for ruining this sequence. By the time all of the mysteries are revealed, I was ready to hop in my car and park it halfway through a tree at 75 mph. There is nothing "special" or "noble" or "touching" about EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE; and it's weird to have a film that features a death at the World Trade Center be about nothing more than an over-indulged child continuing to be allowed to run around the city, meeting strangers, and being away from his mom for hours on end. There is no search for meaning, for reason, for life's big and little secrets. This movie exists very much on the surface despite its clear belief that it is a cerebral experience meant for only the most feeling intellectuals. Oh, god, when you are wrong, you are so wrong, Stephen Daldry. And I'm done.

-- Steve Prokopy
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