“Odd Thomas” is 100 minutes of pure escapist fun, never attempting to be much more than an easy-to-digest piece of entertainment while still managing to be smarter than your typical contemporary popcorn flick. With each scene practically bursting with visual style, sharp dialogue and unusually charismatic characters, it’s really easy to overlook the film’s inconsistencies, which end up being fairly inconsequential considering the “out there” nature of its subject matter (demons, the apocalypse and so on). The film is a fizzy cocktail of paranormal whodunnit, superhero flick and romantic comedy, having the earmarks of a cult classic-to-be, and reminiscent of movies like 1996’s “The Frighteners”, 2001’s “Donnie Darko” and 2012’s “John Dies at the End”, though it is considerably more light-hearted as it hews closer to a “Ghostbusters” level of age-appropriateness. Who knows whether or not it will grab the attention that it deserves (the film spent a year on the festival circuit, and is now available On Demand and in select theaters), being such a mixed bag. Regardless, producer/writer/director Stephen Sommers has finally shown us that he can make a good movie, and for only a fraction of the dollars that were spilled on his last four big-budget efforts – “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra”, “Van Helsing” and the first two “Mummy” movies. “Odd Thomas” is superior to those in just about every way possible, seemingly without breaking much of a creative sweat.
Sommers adapted the screenplay from Dean Koontz’s novel of the same name, and Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek Into Darkness”) plays the title character (the name “Odd” comes with a vague explanation regarding his Eastern European heritage, as we learn) with a similar disposition to that of his role in 2011’s “Fright Night” remake. Odd is a charming, surefooted guy willing to hurl himself in harm’s way for the girl. That girl would be Stormy Llewellyn (Addison Timlin, “That Awkward Moment”), Odd’s confident , vivacious and fearless soul mate. Stormy wholly accepts him for who he is: a short order cook who has the ability to see and communicate with dead people. The responsibility that goes along with this “gift” – solving murders and, in some cases, stopping them before they happen – is why he keeps his life as simple as possible. No home ownership, no career aspirations. Outside of his idyllic relationship with Stormy, it’s flipping burgers and chasing down people who’ve gotten away with murder, two jobs he seems to juggle pretty well. Odd works with police chief Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), a friend/father-figure who regularly fudges his investigation reports to ensure that justice is served without compromising Odd’s secret. Everything changes, however, after Odd foresees an impending catastrophe in their small town when an unprecedented number of creatures called “bodachs” – supernatural entities that are attracted to evil in our corporeal world that only he can see – attach themselves to a conspicuous stranger that strolls into the diner.
Probably the most distinguishing aspect of “Odd Thomas” is the film’s pervasive positivity, as it eschews the cynicism one might expect from a premise involving death, evil spirits and terrorism, without becoming so silly that you lose interest in the well-being of its characters. Despite being consistently funny, the film is no joke – there are a couple of unexpected turns that remind us that mortality is a bitch, and that one-liners are most effective when there’s some sort of dramatic element to contrast them. Whatever your preference, it’s an ideal escape both from the serious, sometimes pretentious blast of awards season fare and the detritus that has accumulated in its wake – there’s just enough well-choreographed action and intelligently-written comedy to last until spring.
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