Odd Thomas

Posted by Michael Parsons on February 28, 2014 in / No Comments

 

“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 Odd-Thomas“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 114126_galwho 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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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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