The 9 Most Scathing Critical Responses to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Nearly a month after its Oscar-qualifying run found it alienating critics in New York and Los Angeles (and almost two months since indelibly, ignominiously entering the zeitgeist as The Daldry), this week finally finds Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close reaching theaters nationwide. And while roughly half of reviewers to date have lauded director Stephen Daldry's adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, the other half has issues -- big issues -- with everything from lead actor Thomas Horn to Daldry's handling of the book's central tragedy of 9/11. It's no Jack and Jill, but that's no reason not to throw on a raincoat and go frolic in the bile. Wish you were here, David Denby!

9. "Despite its overweening literary pretensions, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is about as artistically profound as those framed 3-D photos of the Twin Towers emblazoned with 'Never Forget' that are still for sale in Times Square a decade after 9/11. [...] It’s Oscar-mongering of the most blunt and reprehensible sort." -- Lou Lumenick, NY Post

8. "Poor little Oskar! Such an adorable, pint-sized heap of neuroses. What better mouthpiece for an author, or a filmmaker, to use as a way of exploring the personal cost of a great communal tragedy. Do you get the idea that Oskar must emerge from his own teeny-tiny personal prison and, yes, embrace the world? Never has the tragedy of 9/11 been made so shrinky-dinked." -- Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline

7. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close isn’t about Sept. 11. It’s about the impulse to drain that day of its specificity and turn it into yet another wellspring of generic emotions: sadness, loneliness, happiness. This is how kitsch works. It exploits familiar images, be they puppies or babies — or, as in the case of this movie, the twin towers — and tries to make us feel good, even virtuous, simply about feeling. And, yes, you may cry, but when tears are milked as they are here, the truer response should be rage." -- Manohla Dargis, NY Times

6. "Oskar is a nasty piece of work. On that dreadful day, Oskar comes home early from school. He hears his father’s voice messages. He hides them from his mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock). He denies her listening to Tom tell her he loves her. Oskar is selfish. He sneaks out and buys an identical answering machine, records the identical outgoing message, and keeps the old one for himself. He counts his lies. Oskar has 'head-up-his-ass' platitudes and has read too much Jean-Paul Sartre." -- Victoria Alexander, Film Festival Today

5. "Almost half a century after Dallas, I still have trouble watching film of President Kennedy's assassination. Yet Stephen Daldry's screen version of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, adapted by Eric Roth, proves hard to handle for other reasons. The production's penchant for contrivance is insufferable —- not a single spontaneous moment from start to finish -— and the boy is so precocious you want to strangle him." -- Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

4. "Mixing the horror of 9/11 with a cutesy story about a boy's unlikely quest just comes off as crass. Throwing a tragic old man on top — to no apparent purpose, really — cheapens things further. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the kind of movie you want to punch in the nose." -- Tom Long, The Detroit News

3. "[I]t will always be 'too soon' for Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, which processes the immense grief of a city and a family through a conceit so nauseatingly precious that it's somehow both too literary and too sentimental, cloying yet aestheticized within an inch of its life. It’s 9/11 through the eyes of a caffeinated 9-year-old Harper's contributor. [...] GRADE: F" -- Scott Tobias, AV Club

2. "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. [...] This film is so spectacularly bad that the bar for pretentious, deep-thoughts movies has been lowered roughly the length of my middle finger." -- Capone, Ain't it Cool News

1. "This is a film so thoroughly rotten to its smarmy and diseased little core that tearing into it here hardly seems an adequate method of dealing with it -- going after the negative with battery acid and a sledgehammer might be closer to what it deserves. [...] This is a film that takes one of the most terrible tragedies in our history and reduces it to a level of kitsch that makes a painting of the burning World Trade Center done on black velvet with a sad clown on the side bearing witness seem dignified by comparison." -- Peter Sobczynski, eFilmCritic

Reviews via Rotten Tomatoes

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