Toronto After Dark 2013: My Review of Odd Thomas
When you break down any private detective story, the main character is usually a man with unconventional methods who lives outside regular society’s rules and who’s motivations, while questionable at times, are for the advancement of the greater good. If you look at this film in it’s purest form, that’s exactly who Odd Thomas is. There is a lot more to the story, of course. There’s elements of the supernatural that are integral to the plot and a cast of interesting characters to boot. But when you peel back the layers and look at what makes this film tick, it’s the story of one man using his talents for good to fight evil for the betterment of mankind. While most of the story is outlandish, silly and fantastical, the film is a strong examination of the detective archetype and the journey all heroes must take to accept their destiny. It also has pretty people, evil spirits and high production values. Needless to say this is a grand adventure.
Based on a novel by Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas (played by Anton Yelchin) is actually the name of our hero. Odd, like his name suggests, is not you’re average twenty-something. He has the ability to see dead people. But unlike Haley Joel Osment, he actually does something about it. He finds their killers and brings them to justice. Living in a small California desert town with his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) and few items to his name, Odd spends his days as a short order cook and his nights as a “supernatural detective” assisting the local police in solving crimes that might not be so easy to figure out. But evil is a brewing in this small town as Odd has reason to believe that a whole lot of murder and mayhem is scheduled to come down on this quiet community. When horrible death and destruction is imminent, Bodachs, a brand of demon-like spirit, appear to feed off the energy of the carnage. The town is now full of ’em and only Odd can see them. With the help of Stormy and Captain Wyatt Porter (the surrogate father role played by Willem Dafoe), Odd’s gotta figure out what evil plan is afoot so he can cut it off at the pass and save the lives of all the townsfolk.
The first thing to remember is that this is a Stephen Sommers film, so there’s no real dramatic message or parallel being drawn from the storytelling. This is not a social allegory. This is a popcorn pic. It’s fun and it delivers. But what surprised me is that underneath all the schlocky goodness is a very interesting character study. Odd Thomas is a new spin on the classic private dick story. The journey our protagonist takes could easily be the plot of a Chandler novel. Detective sees a problem, follows the leads, gets roughed up a few times, roughs some guys up, has a love/hate relationship with the local authorities, is a sucker for a pretty face and has a magnetism that attracts both pretty women and trouble (and sometimes both at the same time). The difference is that unlike Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, Odd is a gentle soul who has an almost childlike look at the world. Being able to see good and evil on a spiritual level will do that to you. Anton Yelchin does an excellent job conveying this simplicity of spirit. The character is deep but with no real baggage. He’s inherently good and has no time for negativity. This makes it all the more hard hitting for the audience when bad things happen to him. He’s ultimately likable and you want to see him succeed. The same sentiments go towards the plucky Stormy, who is unflappable in her positive outlook and her support of Odd. Addison Timlin does a great job of conveying the idyllic girlfriend for every fanboy that ever dreamed of saving the world. She falters slightly when she attempts to step outside of the ideal and give a bit more dimension to Stormy. For some reason, there isn’t enough room in the film for anyone to have any real depth of character other than Odd. Dafoe’s Porter is also very base in his motivations and the character is not necessarily demanding but works great as an archetype as opposed to a full character. The story is plot driven and has the single perspective from Odd’s eyes. I feel this is actually a smart move. Much like Odd’s philosophy on life, this movie works because it limits difficulty and distraction.
Having never read the novel, I do not know if this is an effective adaptation of the source material. I can only tell you that the film is straight up fun. It gives you exactly what you’d expect and does it without either talking down to you or getting convoluted. During the pre-show introduction it was compared to John Dies at the End, another supernatural detective story that’s based on a novel. I would say this a valid comparison as both deal with young men coming to terms with their destiny to “save the world”. Another way to explain it is that it’s the Hardy Boys on acid. It takes two things you’re familiar with, the detective story and the high octane action adventure, and mashes them together in a way that compliments each genre and raises the energy of the tale either could tell on their own. It’s entertaining, accessible and fulfills all it promises.
It’s currently unclear on when Odd Thomas will get it’s DVD release so it may be awhile before this film will be on your VOD service of choice. If you get the chance to see this film, I strongly suggest you do. It’s fun. There’s nothing more I can say on the matter. See it when you can.
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