A man who can see spirits attempts to stop a tragedy from occurring in his town.
Stephen Sommers, 2013
Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a cook in a small town. He keeps his life as simple as possible, because he has a complicated gift. Odd is able to see spirits. Years ago, he made the decision to use his gift to help people, and went about building the skills to do so. His tendency to run head-first into trouble worries his devoted girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin), but she understands his desire to help others and frequently assists him in his adventures. Local police chief Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) lends his support to Odd, making up excuses for Odd’s preternatural crime-solving abilities. When Odd starts seeing dark spirits called Bodachs converging on his town, though, he realises that a terrible, large-scale tragedy is about to take place. He follows the portents to try to prevent the tragedy, but he finds himself in over his head.
I found myself pleasantly surprised by Odd Thomas. I hadn’t heard much about it, and I frankly just chose it because it looked like it wouldn’t be too taxing in the midst of the bazillion movies I was watching at the end of the year. And it’s a decidedly flawed film. The oddness of Odd is stated so many times by so many characters that, were one to make a drinking game of it, one would be under the table halfway through the film. The tone is pretty uneven, not quite striking the balance between dark and comic that it needs. And Addison Timlin is woefully unqualified to deliver the snappy dialogue that defines Odd and Stormy’s relationship; there are so many terrific young actresses out there who are very capable of handling fast, funny lines, it’s a mystery as to why one of them wasn’t cast instead. There’s a sheen to this film. Everyone looks too Hollywood pretty, especially the cops that Odd is investigated by; it’s supposed to take place in a small town outside Vegas, but it feels way too shiny for that. And let’s not even start on its issues with female characters. Well, actually, let’s, because it’s going to bother me if I don’t. There’s a frustratingly victim-y nature to all the women in this film, who, by all rights, should be independent. It’s particularly frustrating with Stormy, who spends most of her time worrying about Odd.
Having said all that, Anton Yelchin drags this film together by his fingernails, hanging on doggedly to the ragged corners and making the best he can of it. Odd Thomas feels like the kind of role Yelchin was born to play. He’s quick-witted, weird, and charming, equally convincing trading adoring witticisms with Stormy and deciding how best to investigate a corpse. He’s so likeable, so watchable, that he completely carries the film. He and Willem Dafoe have a natural, charming chemistry; they feel like the only two people at home in this wacky world where the supernatural and the real come together through Odd. The relationship between the police chief and his wife is adorable, and comes around to a poignant point that works well. It’s also nice to see Gugu Mbatha-Raw doing well in a supporting role. There are a couple of twists that are genuinely clever, and one that isn’t clever, but is ultimately strangely moving. There’s some great dialogue, and the film keeps up a cracking pace. I like the visualisation of the spirits, as well. The introduction of the evil Bodachs is the film’s best example of black comedy, and they are genuinely creepy. There are hints of The Mummy, easily director Stephen Sommers’ best work, in here along with the dodgy Van Helsing and GI Joe rubbish. Odd Thomas seems like it would work well on TV – it reminded me of Dead Like Me, and Yelchin could be a great small-screen presence. As a film, it’s flawed, but fun.
Odd Thomas on IMDb