Odd Thomas (2013) / Horror-Comedy
MPAA rated: Not rated, but would probably be PG-13 for scary images, some violence, and language
Running time: 93 min.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Willem Dafoe, Shuler Hensley, Nico Tortorella, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Melissa Ordway, Leonor Varela
Small role and cameo: Patton Oswalt, Arnold Vosloo
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenplay: Stephen Sommers (based on the novel by Dean R. Koontz)
Review published June 29, 2013
Odd Thomas adapts the first of the popular Dean R. Koontz series of books based on the titular clairvoyant character. It's written and directed by popcorn film maestro Stephen Sommers (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Van Helsing) for a modest budget, though, like most Sommers' films, plenty of it has gone into special effects. Unfortunately for Sommers, his film has been plagued with budgetary and distribution issues, causing an interruption in the filming project and inability to get the movie out to its intended wide release.
Anton Yelchin (Fright Night, Terminator Salvation) stars as Odd Thomas, an exceptionally skilled short-order cook at a small diner called the Pico Mundo Grill, but as impressive as he is with a spatula, it's his ability to see and communicate with the dead that makes him truly special. As such, he is quite the asset when it comes to apprehending murderers around the desert town, as his doting girlfriend, Stormy (Timlin, Derailed), loves Odd's many special qualities. His biggest adventure yet comes in his front door in the form of a man named 'Fungus Man' Bob Robertson (Hensley, The Legend of Zorro) who just so happens to be unwittingly followed by a host of bodachs, mostly unseen spirit creatures who seem to appear right before people are about to die. Odd follows the trail, as there are far more bodachs than he has ever seen before, leading him to feel that a catastrophic event is about to take place in his town that could see the death toll skyrocket -- that is, if Odd isn't able to do something about it.
Odd Thomas is certainly, well, odd, but for a film that deals with plenty of dark subject matter as murder and ugly creatures form other dimensions, the tone is surprisingly light and whimsical. Some may find the Raimi-esque vehicle reminiscent of the recent John Dies at the End in both style and substance. Some might also find parallels to Peter Jackson's The Frighteners, or a very small scale Men in Black, except with demons instead of aliens. Anton Yelchin is likeable enough in the central semi-comedic role, and unique due to his distinctive voice. Addison Timlin is appealing in the 'Girl Friday' role of Stormy Llewellyn, though there isn't a great deal of depth to her characterization other than to be in unwavering love with Odd -- she looks at him as if she were cast with a spell, fairly similar to her turn, also in food service, in the film Stand Up Guys. Willem Dafoe (Paris I Love You, Inside Man) adds to the star power of the piece, even if there isn't much to the performance of note. And Arnold Vosloo, Imhotep himself from the Mummy flicks, shows up in a cameo role to inject a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor for Sommers' fans.
Sommers' film plays like a collection of quirky scenes in search of a main story that never quite arrives to adequately anchor them to give them meaning. Sommers has been used to having a great deal of CGI to bolster his films, and while computer graphics are certain in play for many scenes in this flick, they are quite unappealing, especially in the form of the mostly transparent bodachs, which feel as though they are incomplete. Schlocky designs do not bode well in its favor. As the story nears its end, there is some attempt at heartfelt gravitas that Sommers didn't adequately set the film up to sustain.
Fans of the Koontz novels may enjoy this relatively faithful adaptation (though the ghost of Elvis character has been carved out to just a mere visual cardboard cutout). Like that cutout, this feels like just a shell what Sommers may have envisioned, and this may be a case of a potentially good popcorn flick that didn't have the budget to sustain the true vision that could captivate the much more demanding audiences of today. Had this come out shortly after the book's release in 2003, there might be more to recommend for those who aren't fans, but with too many elements we've seen before in better films, there is little freshness to this adaptation to make Odd Thomas something more than an 'oddity'. If this were a pilot for a TV series, it would be a decent one, but as a potential major potion picture, it's a misfire by most measures. Despite earning Koontz' wholehearted endorsement, unless you're insatiably curious, stick to the books.
©2013 Vince Leo