Odd Man Out
I wish I knew more about Dean Koontz so I could tell if Odd Thomas was a letdown or not. Growing up, I'd only known the author as an also-ran to Stephen King, the Christopher Pike to King's R.L. Stine -- popular, but not as much of a cultural phenomenon. The movies certainly haven't been as eager to slice off a piece of the Koontz pie, with the most prominent adaptations of his work boiling down to Demon Seed, the Watchers series, and Phantoms (the one Ben Affleck was the bomb in). But after a spot of legal wrangling, writer/director Stephen Sommers has at last delivered his own take on a Koontz novel, the comedic thriller Odd Thomas. With its inherently quirky attitude and frequent genre hopping, the film sure lives up to the title, and though not a complete success, at least imparts enough weirdness to keep you wondering where it's going.
Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is unique in a number of ways. One involves his name, the alleged result of a botched birth certificate, but stranger yet is a talent he likes to keep hush-hush. Odd just happens to have inherited his mother's psychic abilities, allowing him to talk with the dead and see monsters that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Thus far, his skills have been put to good use in helping the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) combat crime. But on one fateful day, things take a turn for the worse. Odd starts picking up on signs that something even more dangerous than your average serial killer is on the horizon. His town infested with a higher concentration of transparent beasties than normal, Odd can only assume that death and chaos on a grand scale is on the verge of erupting. With only a few people he can trust and time running out, our hero hasn't long to crack the mystery behind what awful tragedy is en route and stop it before it's too late.
Odd Thomas is a funky flick, but it's not so out-there that I can't imagine why someone thought Mr. and Mrs. Moviegoer might check it out. There's something for all tastes here: a little horror, comedy, romance, and action, all tied up with a special effects-trimmed bow. The trouble is that the presence of so many genres makes moving from one to the other extra precarious, and while he may be confident in the plot, Sommers (1999's The Mummy) isn't as nimble as he may think. Odd Thomas is never one kind of movie for very long, and rather than keep us on our toes, the plot grows tiresome after a while. Though Sommers brings enough charm to the table so as not to completely alienate the audience, it's hard getting into the proceedings when wisecracks, silly CG, and emotional character deaths are lobbed our way in such a rapid, haphazard succession. The film is, more often than not, in a humorous state of mind. Still, there are numerous gags and supporting characters propped up on a dime but never mentioned again. That's a bummer, because if they had more exposure in the novel, these on-screen distractions might have easily been edited out without losing anything.
The fact that Odd Thomas looks and feels more like “Canadian sitcom” than "apocalyptic thriller" doesn’t help either. It's akin to making Ghostbusters on a made-for-TV budget, with all the suburban settings creating a bland backdrop for the supernatural goings-on to follow. And yet, Odd Thomas does have a saving grace in the form of ensemble cast members who know what an uneven ride awaits and try to make the best of it. Yelchin does fine work as our protagonist, keeping up with the monster-fighting and snarky dialogue without the latter feeling too forced or self-congratulatory. He simply makes a really likable hero, swiftly earning our empathy and being as up on the abrupt mood changes as he can. Addison Timlin (That Awkward Moment) is a pleasure to watch as Odd's sweetheart, and Dafoe takes full advantage of being able to play his first completely normal role in a while. Familiar faces like Patton Oswalt and Arnold Vosloo (as a mischievous ghost with a dismembered arm) pop up in disappointingly brief cameo parts, but their appearances aren't without some chuckles.
It might seem like I'm beating up on poor Odd Thomas, but in spite of its flaws, there's quite a bit of the film I’m fond of. Sure, it could've benefitted from a less cheap look and another script draft or two, yet much of the flick’s craziness remains endearing, thanks to the way Sommers approaches the material without a cynical bone in his body. Odd Thomas comes across as rough around the edges, but it's a goofy and good-natured offering that will whet your appetite for something off the beaten path.
(Released by RLJ Entertainment; not rated by MPAA.)