The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas could just as easily have been titled Odd Movie. I mean that as a compliment, and not a backhanded one. Based on the novel by Dean Koontz (a fellow Shippensburg University graduate, by the way), the film is cheerfully unusual and eccentric. You don't always know precisely what to make of it, which is more than you can say for 97% of movies that come out these days. I found myself smiling a lot while watching it. For whatever the flaws – and believe me, there are a few – Odd Thomas is just such a goofball charmer that I happily succumbed to its pleasures.

Anton Yelchin plays the title character, a small-town fry cook with the ability to see and communicate with the dead. Only two people know of Odd's abilities: his girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn (Addison Timlin) and the local police chief, Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe). What he really fears seeing, though, are demonic entities known as “bodachs.” They portend death whenever they're around, and they are currently flooding his little town of Pico Mundo, California. With Stormy's help, Odd begins investigating their abrupt appearance, recognizing that it probably means something really terrible is going to happen. The trail leads to a strange-looking man they sarcastically dub “Fungus Bob.” Following him opens up a Pandora's Box that reveals the true nature of the evil that's about to befall Pico Mundo.

I didn't read Koontz's book (yet), so I don't know what the tone is, but the film is weird, quirky, and funny. It tries to nestle itself into that Men in Black-ish zone, where otherworldly entities are viewed somewhat humorously, even when threatening the fate of the universe. Odd often disarms the spirits he meets with a quip or a comical method of dispatchment, such as the moment when he mocks a spirit who's trying to punch him, unaware that the deceased pass right through the living. (The spirit responds by chucking a refrigerator at him.) Some of the human moments are just as giggle-inducing; for example, every time Porter tries to have sex with his wife, Odd interrupts them with some new development. From beginning to end, Odd Thomas adopts an off-kilter tone and a wacky sense of humor that I found really inviting.

Anton Yelchin deserves a lot of credit for selling the material. He's a good actor, and even when playing comic moments, he does so in a straightforward manner that doesn't wink at the audience. Yelchin also conveys the idea that this is all business-as-usual for Odd. To anyone else, it would appear extraordinary, but to him, it's routine. I like the resignation the actor brings to the character, as though Odd knows seeing spirits is never going to stop, so he just goes with the flow. Addison Timlin makes a suitably cute, spunky sidekick for Yelchin, while Dafoe brings a necessary sense of authority.

Odd Thomas has a bit of trouble in the storytelling department. Writer/director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) over-relies on voiceover. Odd is constantly talking over the action, telling us what's going on. It almost feels as though the narration was added later to compensate for things that might have been left on the cutting room floor. (I have no idea whether or not that's true; I'm just saying that's how it plays.) Also, the plot is rushed at times. In its desire to have a breathless pace, Odd Thomas occasionally whizzes through ideas or sequences that would have been better had they been allowed more time to play out. There's an interesting mystery at the heart of the story, one that doesn't quite make the full impact because of this hurriedness.

Odd Thomas is still entertaining enough that I was more than willing to look beyond a few flaws. The story builds to an imaginative climax set inside a shopping mall, because in a small town like Pico Mundo, doesn't everything of note happen at the mall? Earlier, I compared the movie to Men in Black. Perhaps a better comparison would be to R.I.P.D., another film with goofy dead people and a tone laden with eccentricity. This movie is much better than that one, though. With R.I.P.D., everything felt forced, as though the goal was to cynically prefabricate a blockbuster. The quirkiness of Odd Thomas is organic and serves much more of a purpose. It offers a sense of fun that helps the film prevail above its imperfections.

( out of four)

Odd Thomas is unrated, but contains mild violence and sexuality, and some scary images. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

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