Odd Thomas – A Review


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I read Dean Koontz’s novel “Odd Thomas” years ago, though I never did get past the first of its sequels. As a book, I remember it being quirky, funny, fast-paced and a very enjoyable read.

I’m not sure, though, that I would have pegged it as being ideal for film adaptation.

But Stephen Sommers disagrees with me, apparently, and has made one. And what do I know, next to the writer and director of the two Mummy films worth bothering with?

I’m not sure if Odd Thomas ever actually had a cinema release. I know it saw the light of day at several film festivals, but I certainly never saw a showing listed at my local. Wikipedia claims it suffered some sort of money-related dispute, whereas Amazon has the DVD release slated for February 2014. So…yeah.

Odd Thomas is essentially the story of a man — the eponymous Odd Thomas — who sees dead people. He uses this questionable gift as all such gifted persons in film and TV do; he helps the police catch murderers. And if that seems a bit tired and clich├ęd… Well, Odd Thomas runs with it.

The heart of the film is in its humour. It knows what it is, and it isn’t trying to be a philosophical epic.

Anton Yelchin, playing the lead, would also not have been my choice. But actually, he fits the role excellently. Beyond the first few minutes you forget that he was Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek, as he transforms into the wisecracking fry cook of Pico Mundo.

I was somewhat less enthused of Addison Timlin’s portrayal of Stormy Llewellyn. Granted, Odd’s love interest isn’t the deepest of characters, and the zoned-out hippy-ish aspect is part of her character in the book — a counter-balance to the profound…well, oddity of Odd’s life. But there was something absent in her performance, some vital energy which was lacking. The end result didn’t feel at all “Stormy”, simply a cog in the engine of the plot.

The film is, like the novel, incredibly fast-paced, whittling its way through the figuring out of the plot at a frightening rate. I’m hard-pressed to think of another film which proceeds with such unforgiving speed. In that respect it has a lot of the hallmarks of the action-thrillers which seemed to have inspired its style, which makes the emotional gut-punch at the end all the more moving.

The narrated format of the film seems to have attracted a fair bit of criticism, but it honestly didn’t bother me. Part of it is the charm which Anton Yelchin brings to the performance, but it’s also in the question of how you adapt a first-person novel.

The Dexter TV series (an adaptation of Jeff Lindsay’s “Darkly Dreaming Dexter”) used a similar internal narration device, and no one complained about that.

But far and away the best feature of the film is the innovation with the Bodachs. My memory from novel is of simple shadows, like mosquitoes drawn to the flame of coming death. Here they are much more malevolent, driving the whole cause of events and intervening directly. And the visual design is incredible; half-shadow, half-nonexistent.

Odd Thomas won’t win any awards or change the world, but then neither did the novel it was based on. But Dean Koontz’s novel did entertain me, and the fact that Stephen Sommer’s adaptation has done so too tells me that it has succeeded. This was an entertaining, enjoyable, but fairly light film, and on those terms I can heartily recommend it.

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