February 28, 2014
Anton Yelchin as Odd Thomas
Addison Timlin as Stormy Llewellyn
Leonor Varela as Odd's Mother
Matthew Page as Harlo Landerson
Psychic folks who can see the spirits of the dead is a good basis for horror, though there can be a vast difference between features and how well the concept is played. A quick look to the 1999 classic The Sixth Sense vs. the Jennifer Love Hewitt series “Ghost Whisperer” illustrates the range of possibilities. Odd Thomas takes on the “I See Dead People” theme and adds “afterworld crime fighter” and “hero of humanity” into the mix, with a generous portion of humor thrown in for good measure, and the whole thing works pretty darn well.
The film begins with an introduction to Odd Thomas himself (Anton Yelchin), and an explaination for his strange name. His mother says that she intended to name him “Todd” after a Bulgarian uncle and that there was an unfortunate typo… but his Father says they have no relatives from Bulgaria. In any case, the guy’s first name is actually “Odd”, or “Oddy” as his attractive girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) calls him. Odd has a gift, or at least a talent, for being able to see the spirits of the dead. Many times these dead folks will seek Odd out and lead him to the source of their untimely demise, rendering Odd a bit of a crime fighter with hints from beyond the grave. This plays out in an exciting chase and fight scene that ends in the apprehension of a child killer and the spirit of a slain child being released from the earth plane. This scene has excellent action and well choreographed fighting, and even a little girl spirit who walks on water. Cool start.
As the character set-up continues with Odd working his magic as a short order cook at a local diner Odd notices the appearance of a slew of Bodachs – evil spirits who feed off the misery of the living. Their appearance, especially in such high numbers, means that something horrible is about to happen to his small town, or perhaps to the entire world. There is only one chance of survival for the human race, and his name is Odd Thomas.
Odd Thomas is a great story, based on the best seller by Dean Koontz. Having never read the book it is impossible to say how true to the story this feature film is, but the story is very fun and interesting nonetheless. Beyond the story there are a few other high points to this film, including the likeability of the characters and performers, production quality of the film, appropriate sound and music, and some great effects that are appropriately placed yet not over-used.
Anton Yelchin and Addison Timlin do fantastic jobs as Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellyn. Their dialogue is sharp and smart, yet natural – and the characters are played like the two off-the-wall kids who are a little weird but so innately cool that they could care less about what folks may think of them. Actually, the one weak link when it comes to characters is why everyone in town thinks Odd is so odd, and therefore basically shun him. This characters is very funny and cool, and it seems that the more likely scenario is that he would be quite the superstar around town. Stormy is beautiful, intelligent and witty, but she is pretty much sought after, which is more realistic. The addition of Willem Dafoe as the police chief Wyatt Porter is a great treat in the character department as well, showing the right mix of light humor and Willem Dafoe intensity.
The production of the film is flawless, betraying that this is anything but a micro-budget Indie. The director makes excellent use of flashbacks and appropriately timed narration by Odd, and the result is a story flow that works very well with all of the moving parts. The music is very good as well, but doesn’t particularly stand out as much as it complements the action as it should. The chase scenes in particular have just the right instrumental accompaniment.
The effects in the film are simple, mostly under-stated, and therefore wholly appropriate. There is definitely a lot of CGI when the Bodachs appear, and there is a bit of weirdness on the screen when Odd finds the gate to Hell, but instead of relying on effects to make up for weak storytelling director Stephen Sommers instead uses such techniques to further the story that is already strong on it’s own… exactly the way effects of this type are supposed to be used. The supernatural and otherworldly events appear actually plausible.
Odd Thomas is a strong film, very entertaining. There is nothing “deep and significant” to be gained by watching this one, no hidden meanings or secret messages – just good old fashioned entertainment that allows one to turn off their brain for a while and enjoy the show. One word of warning about the ending though – the lighthearted feel will indeed come to a shocking conclusion that may not leave a dry eye in the house. Just be ready…