Sunday, June 15, 2014

Odd Thomas: A Review (Review #640)


Odd Thomas is the title character in a book series that has spanned six novels (with a seventh coming and a couple of prequels).  Given how wildly popular the Odd Thomas book series is, the feature film adaptation of Dean Koontz's first novel of the short-order cook who 'sees dead people' snuck in and out so quickly no one apparently noticed.   One would think that the audience who love the stories would flock to the film, but they didn't.  In fact, no one did, and the film version of the first Odd Thomas book sadly has the opposite effect of having one NOT want to know All About Odd, despite star Anton Yelchin's very best efforts. 

Odd Thomas (Yelchin) is living in the California town of Pico Mundo, where his powers to see and communicate with the dead come in handy. His gifts allow him to solve murders, where his friend Chief Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) is able to use Odd's powers to find evidence to bring killers to justice.  Despite his gifts he would rather not be part of general society: no lease, no health insurance (at least until now...thanks, President Obama), but he does have his job and his friend Stormy Llewellyn (Addison Timlin), who is somewhere between girlfriend, friend with benefits, and wisecracking girl Friday. 

In any case, Odd now finds that bodachs, evil beings that feed on the misery of others, are massing around Pico Mundo.  Odd knows this means that people are coming close to being killed in large numbers.  It is up to Odd, Chief Porter (who himself was targeted for assassination) and Stormy to stop the bodachs and a coven of I think Satanists/white supremacists (same thing) from having a mass shooting.  The where/when/why of when this mass murder will take place, along with some twists, make up the bulk of Odd Thomas, with the film ending with Odd overlooking Las Vegas, aware that there are so many dead there, waiting for someone like him. 

Odd Thomas already starts out with a bane of my cinematic experience: the voice-over.  I dislike the easy way filmmakers take to explain or give details for plot, story, characters, or anything else.  Odd Thomas then ends with another bane of my cinematic experience: the suggestion there will be a sequel.   It violates one of my Golden Rules of Filmmaking: Never End Your Movie By Suggesting There Will Be a Sequel.  It suggests arrogance on the filmmakers part, and when a movie fails as badly as Odd Thomas does, it makes them look foolish. 

If that weren't enough, Odd Thomas falters because even at its 93 minutes it feels so dragged out and rushed simultaneously.  The rushed part comes from the fact that we are given information in such a slapdash manner that unless one has read the novels (which I haven't), one doesn't quite understand why things are a certain way or care. 

Take for example the bodachs, these malevolent beings that emerge like dark shadows to feed off the torment of others.  We learn quickly that they will kill you if you admit to seeing them or acknowledge their presence in some way.  We find this out when Odd finds "Mexican Teenager" (Jesus Mayorga, and this is how he's billed), who freely tells Odd he can see these beings.  Immediately Odd tells this cholo that these beings will kill him for saying that, and soon enough he is run over.  How Odd came about this information about bodachs killing if you recognize them we don't know.  We also get bits about his mother and father (a mentally unstable figure and one who abandoned the family) which we don't care all about that much and other elements that are thrown at us sans rhyme or reason. 

Kevin Goss (Morse Bickell) is not a teacher but a Satan-worshipping hitman we're barely introduced to.  If he was on-screen for more than five minutes prior to the big reveal I'd be amazed.  Similarly, Odd's friend Ozzie Boone (Patton Oswalt in what could be a cameo) is introduced without any idea of how and why they know each other is again unknown.

In some ways Odd Thomas (which sadly looks a bit on the cheap side special-effects wise) looks more like a potential pilot than a franchise-starter.

Sadly, Odd Thomas' major failures come at the expense of a great performance by Yelchin, who is slowly climbing to my Best Actors List.  He makes Odd into a real person in a bizarre world, where he handles the situations he finds himself in a realistic and natural manner.  When he realizes the truth about Stormy, the expression of pain and loss is so well-performed even I found myself emotionally moved by it all.  Yelchin's performance is excellent, but given how almost everyone else was (either bored or hyper), it has to be because Yelchin is an actor who can make the material given to him work and not because screenwriter/director Stephen Sommers is a good director/writer.

Apart from The Mummy and The Mummy Returns (films that were fully aware of their B-Movie status that didn't take themselves seriously), has there been a good film he's made (Van Helsing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra)?  Odd Thomas, for all its ghosts and Satanists, is the most realistic film Sommers has made, and he fumbles the human aspects of the characters.

Apart from Anton Yelchin (an actor I'm really warming to) Odd Thomas is really either a lousy adaptation of a good book or an accurate adaptation of a lousy book.  The film has a big bomb go off near the end...and apparently, it speaks volumes about the film itself.


1 comment:

  1. I saw this movie flipping through Netflix, and I will be sure not to watch it now. Thanks for the heads up!



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