It is, simply, the "worst day"---that's how 9/11 is referred to in Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 child's-eye novel, ambitious if a touch forced. In being true to the intentionally naive material, filmmaker Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) has now created an earnest puddle of slop: Fragile nine-year-old Oskar (Horn), bereaved after his dad's death at the World Trade Center, is too quiveringly stunned to be any kind of long-form surrogate for a viewer. You watch him roam through a shaken city nonetheless getting on with itself, and wish this brainy kid---or at least his director---could enjoy a nonglazed moment or two.
That's not to say the best scenes don't work, particularly those that transcend the specifics of that terrible Tuesday. Some geeky, relaxed work by Tom Hanks as the doting father helps you feel the toll taken on a sensitive relationship filled with microscopic inquiries, Barney Greengrass brunches and Central Park expeditions. Who will help this Aspergian child emerge? Alas, you also have to endure a guilt-ridden Max von Sydow (why cast one of the best voices in the biz to play a mute?) and the sad sight of Oskar's handmade scrapbook, in which a jaunty red string restores a falling man to the 106th floor. We might have all felt like lost children for a while, but ten years later, the innocence is shameless.
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