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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  • J K says:

    When I first heard the title of this film, I thought it was the punchline to a lost Carlin fart joke.

    If only. That would have had some dignity.

  • Happygolucky says:

    Not scathing enough, says she who was there and never heard one story even close to this sentimental claptrap.

  • Meleanna says:

    I found the moving deeply moving about a child coming to terms with the death of his father. I though Thomas Horn who carried
    the movie was great.

  • Desk_hack says:

    Just curious: for those who read the book, could a lot of these criticisms stand for it as well?

  • EmD says:

    Indeed they could. I haven't seen the film and don't know how much grief the director or the actors deserve - I assume Hanks and Bullock weren't in it for the money - but Orson Welles himself couldn't have salvaged the source material.

    Here's the definitive takedown of JS Foer.

    • blizzard bound says:

      Thanks for the link -- that was ferocious. I wonder how many grand mistakes JSF is allowed? Or will he be a literary darling forever?

  • KevyB says:

    Does this site have some sort of Tom Hanks issue? First we get "9 Scathing Responses" to Larry Crowne, a movie that wasn't the worst released in that time period, and now we get a new "9" for this, which is still getting a 49% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, it looks dreadful, but evidently a lot of people like it. So I have to ask, where are our "9 Scathing Responses" for Underworld (27%), Red Tails (33%) and The Devil Inside (6%!!!!!)??? Would we have them if Tom Hanks was in all of them?

    • Tom says:

      I think the reason why a Tom Hanks movie gets more attention is people expect more from him. Red Tails is a George Lucas flick so we would be pleasantly surprised to see that it was any good. If Hanks chose to star in this project then people expect the project to stand up to the likes of Road To Perdition or Toy Story 3.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      Does this site have some sort of Tom Hanks issue?


      Yes, it looks dreadful, but evidently a lot of people like it. So I have to ask, where are our "9 Scathing Responses" for Underworld (27%), Red Tails (33%) and The Devil Inside (6%!!!!!)???

      The "Scathing Responses" series isn't necessarily about the volume of bad reviews, but rather the concentration of bile in said reviews. People dislike Underworld and Red Tails in greater numbers, true, but they do so with a kind of resignation. Devil Inside would have been great, except the timing didn't work out with all the late, day-of-release reviews. I take responsibility for that ultimately; you're right that we should have included it.

      Nevertheless, among the 50% of viewers who hate EL&IC, there is an unusual preponderance of people who really, really hate it. And Tom Hanks is barely even noted here; most of the criticism is reserved for Thomas Horn and Stephen Daldry. Honestly, the Hanks overlap is coincidental.

    • DBZ says:

      Those other movies weren't nominated for Oscars. And yes, it is more interesting when an accomplished actor makes something terrible...

  • MartiniShark says:

    If there was a conspiracy surrounding the "Scathing" series you would have had more footing citing Adam Sandler. He had 3 of his productions get the treatment this year. (Should have been four)

  • cinema love says:

    It is worth including here that the events of 9/11 are still in question! I will say no more, but I will bear witness.
    This is Hollywood goo-propaganda, actually quite sinister, cynical and manipulative.
    Screw this!

    • IRefuseToRegisterForDigg says:

      "It is worth including here that the events of 9/11 are still in question!" Um... actually no, they're not. In fact, the only people who "question" the events of that day are moronic conspiracy theorists, like yourself, who continue to insist over 10 years later that it was a controlled demolition along with the rest of that asinine, incredibly predictable babble. Do everyone with a working brain a favor -- keep your tin-foil hat wearing, bogus speculation about things which you know nothing about to yourself. Nobody needs you to "bear witness" because you never witnessed a damn thing. Rather, other idiots told you, and you childishly believed it. I shudder to think what whimsically moronic ideas you must have about the JFK assassination. Notice you're the ONLY person who calls the facts about 9/11 into question at all, because you fail to grasp that this is simply a bad movie. Instead, you so badly want to believe the twin towers was an inside job that you flaunt your sophomoric ignorance attempting to "educate" the masses on the evils of Hollywood, as if we should be grateful you dropped such incredible knowledge and wisdom on our hopeless lives. Pffffff... Give me a fucking break. The funniest part is you'll just counter by calling me a sheep who blindly follows the flock, or some other trite response lifted from the fringe lunatic handbook.

      • groitswitch says:

        you ARE a sheep, pray tell how do you reduce 90 odd floors into a pile a storey and a half high without explosives or more likely an exotic energy weapon.
        and no it didnt go into the basement- it vaporised in front of your eyes but you would rather believe what you are told than what you see.
        "where did the towers go?"
        google it ya fucking numbskull and go and learn some physics.

  • Jag Pop says:

    Scathing reviews, yes; but isn't this movie
    - hmmm, let me think, not appropriate, not even apropo (sic); how does one say
    this in, for instance Hebrew or better still, Farsi? -

    Two things are unresolved from that day in September.
    Who really did it, and who were WE really?

    We had the dreck knocked out of us that day and belched forth needless wars and self-attacks upon our own imagined freedoms. The gagging noises, in unrecognized languages, from water torture stir us less deeply than elevator music. Cat-calls and adolescent
    insults win the day over erudite architectural analysis of the Twin Tower demolition. We are united in Supporting The Troops even though we can't agree out what the heck that means.

    The 9/11 Commission Farse and Dreck Report, that was beneath even Henry Kissinger (you forgot?), tells us more about us than it did
    the Twin Towers.

    So why demand anything deeper than kitsch from a movie about us and 9/11? Isn't this movie a Truthful Reflection Pool of us?

    I would make one adaptation however, if this movie goes to Louder volume II or III. I would cover the kid's face with a Level Yellow emoticon.

  • joshharmont says:

    You people are fucking idiots. keep wearing your tin foil hats. Maybe next week aliens will touch down.

  • The Cantankerist says:

    I will say this about the conspiracy theorists: everyone responds to shock and grief in different ways. Many folks want to find a villain immediately and unleash their anger; certainly that instinct helped Bush segue Bin Laden into Iraq, despite the lack of genuine connection there. So to some degree the government has to take responsibility for muddying the water there.

    For others, that rage is linked to the stage before - denial. The towers were falling and they were saying "I don't believe this is happening, it seems so unreal." Conspiracy theories are a way of keeping that denial alive, transferred across to "Didn't the whole thing just seem *wrong* to you?" Note to theorists: Yes. It seemed wrong to just about everyone. But the reaction of "Well in that case I reject everything I'm being told by authorities because I want to wish myself into a world in which it didn't happen like *that*" is more than a little kooky. So many self-appointed "experts" on controlled demolition, all "educated" by reading the same five underinformed and embarrassingly ignorant sites UNQUESTIONINGLY.

    That's the kicker: if you're going to dance around saying (of the actual events) "can't you see the spin? Don't you see that argument is nonsense?" you have to be prepared to apply the same "rigorous" deconstruction to all theories, not sit gaga in front of confused YouTube "dissections" because deep down you really want to be a revolutionary and Stick It To The Man. Most 9/11 conspiracy theories are based on factual inaccuracy - easily proven - but once you've decided to stop believing anything The Man tells you, you've pretty much ruled out all the people who do know something about the issue. You Won't Be Told. I get it. I do. It's a visceral, emotional response to being told something you really don't want to hear.

    • Jag Pop says:

      The Cantankerist,

      But YOU didn't address YOUR explanation for 9/11. You don't need one? What kind of reality do you live it?


      • Jag Pop says:

        Oh wait, Cantankerist, I was too hasty.

        You faced reality by accepting authority and not rejecting it,
        though the reality of our Bush authority was an endless trail of lies.
        Ergo, your reality is to accept lies.

        Deal with it, Cantankerist. That is YOU.

        But you won't. Life is so much easier
        if you just roll over and accept the bones of authority you are tossed. Here, let
        us rub your tummy.

        WMD? They weren't there in Iraq. An entire friggin war based on
        authoritative lies - did you catch Colin Powell's authoritative speech
        before the UN and the entire world?
        Jessica Lynch? Phoney, phoney, phoney propaganda.
        Pat Tillman? Lies on top of lies.
        A handful of days after 9/11 Colin Powell was on national tv telling
        everyone that within a few days the US would lay out ON PAPER the
        evidence we had against Bin Laden. The day after that - THE NEXT DAY -
        Colin Powell had to eat his words (he and Bush side by side at the White House)
        and he told us the information was CLASSIFIED. Good enough for Cantankerist,
        you betcha.

        How about a 9/11 Commission? "NO!"

        "No"? The *authorities* response for a commission? "No"?
        Can you believe that! A total failure of our air security,
        thousands dead and we are going to just let it slide?

        "No" - guess that is good enough for the likes of Cantankerist
        where authority equals reality.

        But the authorities DID relent to the pleas of the 9/11 Families, finally.
        And the answer was?.......wait for it......wait for it......
        Henry Kissinger! The face of authority.

        Also the face of deception, backroom secrets, INSIDER power.

        When Henry Kissinger's name emerged Europeans were suprised. They had lost
        track of Henry over the years, but they assumed he was in jail somewhere.

        And then Henry backed out and we got a Commission stealth led by Karl Rove.
        No honest person finds the 9/11 Commission Report respectable. But that doesn't
        matter to the likes of Cantankerist. Toss him a bone and he will roll over
        gladly, if you rub his tummy.

        You know, if you haven't rejected reality, Cantankerist, that a detailing of the
        lies could go on for pages. But you know what? I'll bet none of it would really
        matter to someone such as yourself, Cantankerist, that has such a firm grip on

        • The Cantankerist says:

          And in case you were looking for direct evidence of what I was talking about, I tender: Jag Pop.

          I'm attacked for apparently believing the lies of George W. Bush etc on the invasion of Iraq - in spite of the fact that I DIRECTLY ADDRESS THAT in my post.

          And then he complains that the authorities didn't want a commission, and then he complains that the authorities chose the wrong person for a commission, and then he complains that the authorities chose another wrong person for the commission.

          When it comes to having a firm grip on reality, Jag Pop, neither of us will ever be sure - that's the nature of the beast. But if you think you're on firmer ground than I am, it really is time for you to don the tinfoil hat.

          Unless, of course, you'd care to tender your "erudite architectural analysis of the Twin Tower demolition". I presume it's peer-reviewed - or are universities just great webs of evil lies as well?

          • Jag Pop says:

            Wow, sure was clever of you to "directly address Iraq in your post". What was it you said?...oh, yeah:
            "So to some degree the government has to take responsibility for muddying the water there."
            If you didn't make me laugh so hard I would simply dismiss you...actually, there are some YouTube videos of kittens that are more substantive and funny then you, so...have a nice reality.

          • The Cantankerist says:

            Actually it was (as all can read):"that instinct helped Bush segue Bin Laden into Iraq, despite the lack of genuine connection there". But you'd dispute that anyway, no doubt; Bin Laden probably had nothing to do with 9/11, and chose to take responsibility for it and hide out for years for his own amusement.

            The "muddying the waters" comment referred to the way in which the US's falsehoods in trying to justify the invasion of Iraq allowed any number of crackpot commenters to then propose increasingly ridiculous scenarios related to 9/11. They are not fully responsible for every risible utterance from dim craniums such as yours, but they did throw fuel on the fire with their own distortions.

            Your quoting of it threw away all the bits that didn't suit your argument and tried to misrepresent the remaining piece. You (and all conspiracy theorists) should understand: that's not the way a real process of proof works!

            But I'm glad to see your keen scientific mind is keeping up with the YouTube kitten videos. It's probably the most productive outcome all round.

  • Kathy Kotvan says:

    I really liked the Incredibly Close movie. It made me think of all the family related to the victims and how much they must have suffered in the aftermath of 911. It is life shaking for a child to lose their parent in such a senseless overwhelmingly public way. I really cried during some scenes because it reminded me of my own loss of wonderful people in my life. I think all the scathing reviews are written by really cynical people. It was a thought-provoking movie, and for the average Joe like me I was very touched by it.

  • Vi Asmuth says:

    Thank you Kathy for your comments with which I agree. Those who tear the movie apart do not seem to get the central theme of grief. People who have experienced grief react in different ways. Oskar who feels such a heavy burden with his father's loss is spurred to action as his father trained him and expected from him. The character is intellectual above the average and also has fears above the average which creates an interesting combination for the audience as we search with him for a possible closure to his grief. Thomas Horn did an outstanding job carrying out the theme. I am excited that the movie is one of the nominations for Best Picture of the year in the Oscars.

  • Karen Scott says:

    I totally disagree with the scathing comments from the movie critics. I thought this movie was compelling for a number of reasons and it made me ponder for the first time ever what it must have been like for families who lived within eyeshot of the towers to experience this national horror. To have a living room, bedroom or kitchen window that looks out each and every day on the very spot where your Dad or husband died is unimaginable. It made the grief of this tragedy palpable for me. I was absolutely mesmerized by Oskar's quest to quench his thirst for his Dad by compartmentalizing his all-encompassing grief into a treasure hunt for the missing lock. Oskar is not an ordinary boy; he has a prominent personality disorder that makes him very ornry and unlikeable at times. But that is what I loved most about this movie. The director did not sugar coat or trivialize the nature of Oskar's emotional illness by making the audience comfortable with the familiar. We didn't want to see Oskar hide the recording of his Dad's last words or watch him belittle the doorman. That wasn't what a "normal" grieving boy might do. Children with Asperger's have very unique and often challenging personality traits that can alienate them from others. In this film, Oskar's personality disorder (never clearly diagnosed) was the very engine that propelled him to complete his remarkable expedition. I loved this deeply disturbing movie. I am not a movie critic, just another "ordinary joe" that loves going to the movies.

  • Elise says:

    I agree with Karen Scott. Oskar's quest is a way to make sense of what happened, to deal with the grief of losing his Dad, who was everything to him. It is a story, a tale about looking for a lost father--something Oskar's Dad (Tom Hanks) did not do, or get to do with his own father. Oskar's way of looking at everything is filtered through his personality disorder and his age. He is not obnoxious so much as anxious. Thomas Horn is a fine young actor who "nailed" Oskar's issues. He is the true star of the movie. Anyone who has had a family, who has had children, knows that children don't react the way we think they will and that every family has rituals that they use to cope. Anyone who remembers 9/11 and has read about the different ways people reacted to losing their loved ones will be touched by Oskar's struggle. I had read the book, my husband had not. Both of us were moved by the performances and by the 9/11 details.

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  • Fuck off says:

    This little fag thomas horn, deserves to get cancer.

  • Terri Evans says:

    Putting aside the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and the ongoing threat to our country 11 years later....I just have one question.....Could Thomas Horn have been more gay in this role......I see him in the pages of OUT with his lover and their dog with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background...leave acting alone kid, just start doing what you will hopefully be good at ...sucking cock

  • Shaun Smith says:

    The comments posted on June 27 2012 & February 18 2013 Experts say that some homophobic people are actually hiding there own homosexual desires... Also Thomas Horn was only 13/14 at the time of the films release and he played the part exceptionally well.

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