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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    Most Irritating Movie of the Year: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

    By Kyle | December 23, 2011

    For once, I want to associate myself with my colleague Lou Lumenick’s remarks, in this case on the vile and putrid film “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” I walked out of the movie in more or less of a cold fury and I still think some critics and wets might fall for this shameless work — this misappropriation and embezzlement of 9/11 for purposes of self-gratification — but I’m glad that at least some (most?) have seen through it. (Update: half of critics hate it. Props.)

    The film amounts to a celebration thrown by author Jonathan Safran Foer for an unbelievably obnoxious little genius meant to be a sweetly heartbreaking charmer. Instead of being the cause of daily horsewhippings with barbed wire as you would expect (and hope), the kid’s precocity is a source of wonderment to everyone around him (including an assortment of colorful minority peoples who are enchanted by his company as he goes around the city introducing himself, though occasionally white people are rude to him). The Islamofascist attacks of 9/11, which killed the kid’s father (Tom Hanks), are a sort of pickaxe Foer uses for attacking the tear ducts. I hated the kid and his nonstop efforts to convince us of his brilliance from the very beginning of the movie (even though we’re supposed to feel sorry for him) and my opinion of him sharply declined thereafter.

    Is that the most obnoxious aspect of the movie? Perhaps not. What’s additionally galling is that the kid really has nothing to do with 9/11, which barely interests the author except as a means for ginning up interest in and sympathy for his little hero. 9/11 is cannily deployed to bestow a completely unearned gravity on this twee creation.

    And though my America-last colleague Lou would be unlikely to take notice of this aspect of the film, how about this for an omission: There is no mention of the savages who ruthlessly and with perfect internal logic carried out this act of mass murder. The events of 9/11 are treated as just a random tragedy, like an earthquake or a lightning strike, instead of the result of meticulous evil planning by sworn foes of the United States of America and everything it stands for. There are a couple of lines of dialogue along the lines of, “Who would fly a plane into the building? What an odd thing to have happened.” The longer 9/11 recedes into memory the more pronounced will become this cultural shrug, this willful blindness to basic facts. Perhaps future generations will be unclear about who, exactly, carried out 9/11, and why. Maybe it was just a big misunderstanding? Maybe it was just some crazy kids on a joyride? Maybe it was a freak accident? Surely if whoever those mysterious people who carried out 9/11 knew about our cuddly little Brooklyn geniuses they’d call us up and ask if they could join our non-denominational international faith group and the world would be healed?

    Topics: Movies | 13 Comments »

    13 Responses to “Most Irritating Movie of the Year: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close””

    1. dubs Says:
      December 23rd, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Have not seen it yet (and don’t plan to), but just hearing the kid’s voice on the tv ads seemed to be a first clue of how terrible this movie could be. Also, title is annoying.

    2. kishke Says:
      December 23rd, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      I read the book recently (with an eye toward possibly seeing the movie) and found it extremely in love with itself and incredibly annoying. The grandfather who won’t talk, the opaque dialogue, the shtick with the pictures, all just too cute for words.

      The book too ignored the fact that the hijackers were Muslims. The one mention I recall was immediately followed by the boy assuring us that he’s not racist.

      And let’s not forget the comparison, implicit but clearly drawn, between the Allied bombing of Dresden in WWII and the attacks on 9/11. A nasty piece of work.

    3. Yankeefan Says:
      December 23rd, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      I ruled out seeing this picture about 15 seconds into the trailer, when the papers fell from the sky in a cloud of dust. Could smell 9/11 schmaltz just as keenly as I used to smell the smoke that emitted from the pit every night after the attack for months.

    4. Yankeefan Says:
      December 23rd, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      Plus, the trailer just oozed preciousness.

    5. Bugg Says:
      December 25th, 2011 at 12:57 am

      The whole needless middle name of the author is a dead giveaway of preening unearned self-importance. Is there another Jonathan Foer? Who does he think he is-Ben Jarvis Green Ellis? Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

      And 9/11 as marketing is obnoxious. These people-including a dear friend-were murdered by terrorists.How you can have 9/11 as a centerpiece of any work of ary without discussing the murderers is beyond understanding. Springsteen did much the same thing with “The Rising”-no mention of who murdered those people nor why they did it, only empty happytalk victimhood.

    6. Ghj Says:
      December 26th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      Excuse me all you ignorant readers. The novel was absolutely amazing and it wasn’t a “cultural shrug”. Just because it didn’t adress the precise cause of the incident doesn’t make it a “cultural shrug”. I mean the entire focus of the novel is about how a national tragedy affected a young boy. It reminds people who didn’t lose someone In 9/11 the loss many people experienced. I think too many people such as yourself get caught up
      In the technicalities, the “whos” and “whys”. The point of the novel is to show the strength of the community can provide in the face of a tradegy. NOT who commited the crime and why. Discussing who did it and why wont solve any problems, we can’t go back and stop a terrist. All we can do is try to heal the hearts of Americans, just like Oskar does through his incredible journey. Its truly and outstanding book, I dont
      Know what is stuck up all of your butts.

    7. kishke Says:
      December 27th, 2011 at 10:42 am

      Ghj: You liked the book, so anyone who didn’t is ignorant and has something stuck up their butts? You’re a blinkered nitwit, one who should learn spelling and punctuation.

      As to the matter at hand, I’ll admit the book contained a couple of affecting moments, but they were of the sentimental variety, and the rest was extremely, incredibly, annoyingly precious, and not at all believable. The cultural stuff just added to my distaste. I was disgusted by the implicit comparison drawn between 9/11 and Dresden, as if to say that we do bad things too, so we’re no different than the terrorists. It’s a comparison I find not only wrongheaded and ignorant, but morally reprehensible. Additionally, it beggars belief that any child in Oskar’s position would not hate and fear those who killed his father. Foer’s decision to ignore the identity of the 9/11 murderers plays to his own liberal worldview, and Kyle was absolutely right to call him on it.

    8. Bugg Says:
      December 27th, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      A car accident is a tragedy; murdering people by flying a plane into an office building is an atrocity. The “technicalities” include almost 3000 murder victims. Oh, but thanks to the wonderful journey of Foer’s “Oskar”(the very name stolen from “The Tin Drum”; more derivative!), we’ll all feel better! Yes! Heal the hearts-ah, loving leftist nonjudmental therapuetic deism of the diverse community will make everyone feel better.

      There’s so much more I could say here about the friends and neighbors who lost their lives on 9/11. Can say that the elusive “closure” is nonsense. People have to move on, but not everyone has. And not easily if they have.

      If you are going to use 9/11 as a centerpiece, to not discuss who committed the crimes and why is the height of ignorance.

    9. Ghj Says:
      December 27th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

      Kisle: Why do you think the comparison between Dresden and 9/11 is inappropriate? The author makes a valid point in his comparison!
      Bugg: Why are you so hung up on Foer not addressing the culprit? That simply wasn’t the point of the novel. People get so caught up in the number and facts. I was only 6 when 9/11 happened. I hardely remember anything from that day and I didn’t know anyone that died. Although all the numbers and facts, such as who committed the crime are important, there are real peole behind them. For many Americans who didn’t direcly expirence a loss and have a hazy memory of the day this book was powerful. It showed me how the tragedy affected one person and the destruction it caused. What would you say thats better clouse for your neighbors and friends? Honesly the bigger issue is closure and healing. Discussing who committed the crime won’t help anyone. Foer makes a point by not discussing who committed the crime, that people look back on the event and see numbers, point fingers, and want to go to war. Somehow we forget all this numbers are real people with feelings. Also, why do you mock closure? The tragedy was terrible, but all we can do now is find closure. What more do you want?

    10. Ghj Says:
      December 27th, 2011 at 10:53 pm

      Kishke: sorry for not knowing how to use spell check. I’m dislexic so sometimes I have problems with these things.

    11. kishke Says:
      December 28th, 2011 at 2:11 am

      You need help understanding the differences between Dresden and 9/11? Not that I think it’ll do any good, but here you go:

      Dresden came in the course of a long and vicious war begun by the German with no cause. It was no more than the Germans had been doing to the English for years by bombing London, and no more than they deserved in response. It was a response to German bombing of civiians in a war begun by the Germans. There’s debate as to whether it shortened the war by sapping the German will to fight, but there was certainly reason to believe it would.

      9/11 was an unprovoked sneak attack on the civilians of a country with which the attackers were not at war, whom had done nothing to harm them. In short, it was an act not of war, but of murder, on the grand scale.

      To pretend the two are the same is to pretend that the Muslim terrorists did nothing worse than any country at war would do, and that we ourselves did do, which of course is a lie on both counts, but is a lie that Mr. Foer is at pains to spread. What a despicable person.

    12. Kyle Says:
      December 28th, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      Plus: Dresden was a legitimate military target. The idea that it wasn’t was promoted by neo-Nazis, the Holocaust denier David Irving, and the German-American Irving promoter Kurt Vonnegut.,1518,607524,00.html

    13. kishke Says:
      December 28th, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      Good cites, Kyle. Thanks.

      It’s interesting that Dresden was a strongly Nazi city (as stated in the Speigel interview). Foer, a Jew, is beating the sympathy drum for people who would have sent him off to be killed. It seems as though anything goes, so long as besmirches the US. I am so glad the movie is a flop.