Odd Thomas is an odd beast indeed. It tries to be quirky and offbeat but also incredibly mainstream at the same time, and the fact that that it doesn’t quite succeed either way makes it somehow more endearing.
Aston Yelchin is the said Odd of the title, apparently he was meant to be Todd Thomas but they lost a letter or some such. He can see dead people but unlike that short man in The Sixth Sense, Odd decides to solve crimes and kick ass at the same time, mostly in that ramp up/slow down editing type way that’s fashionable but not very exciting. Essentially he’s a low rent superhero without the costume or super powers but with a crappy job as cook in a diner. He also has a cute girlfriend that he’s loved since childhood called Storm, which is the name of a superhero although she’s not one, unless her power is to be incredibly tiny, because she is.
Anyway, other than the silent ghosts of dead people, Odd can also see these other supernatural beings, the bodachs, cg creatures that swarm around whenever there is going to be a death. However Odd has to pretend that he can’t see them, otherwise they’d kill him. There are a lot of these things here in the this dusty old Californian town so Odd has to figure out who, what, where and why before lots of people die. The mystery itself is a fairly solid one, which, whilst not too hard to guess, does have a rather modern and horrific American crime at the heart of it.
Also there are some nice quirky touches. Willem Dafoe plays the local detective desperately trying to find a quiet moment to hump his wife but always being interrupted by Odd and his wild tales, which he, refreshingly, completely believes. Also the ghosts are played without lots of cg and are just silent, sad figures trying to get Odd’s attention, usually to solve a crime, but occasionally just trying to get a laugh out of him. Odd’s relationship with Storm is also incredibly sweet, they don’t argue or have contrived falling outs only to get back together later, they just genuinely love each other. The dialogue may be a bit corny but the sentiment is not, and that’s helped a lot by Yelchin and Addison Timlin as Storm really being a charming couple of buggers.
If there is a problem then it’s with the bodachs which stand out like semi transparent sore thumbs. I know director Stephen Sommers has never been one to go for realistic looking visual effects but the swarms of bodachs look so computery it’s like they’ve stumbled in from a different film from the nineties, for example of Sommers’ Mummy movies. And they are in it a lot throughout the running time, and almost never work either in design concept or scary execution. They’re just a little annoying, Odd is always ducking and diving away from them and we want to avoid them too, like by not having them in the film. They represent what is so mainstream about Odd Thomas, they are big flash effects saying “Look at me! You can put me in the trailer!” And while they are fairly important to the plot I think they surely could have been done with anything approaching a bit of subtlety rather than stomping all over the movie like ectoplasm turds ruining everything they touch. I presume they were in the the Dean R Koontz novel as well, but must have been better on the page than on the silver screen. I mean what is this:
Just some glassy, vague toothy thing. And that image makes it look much better than it is.
There are a few other problems as well, for example there is way too much voice over, although as some of the film feels a bit like a detective story I can see why it’s there. Fortunately, at the heart of the film, Yelchin is a likeable and fun presence, and the film is very entertaining and slickly made despite its issues. It manages to get the balance between the dark goings on and the comedy of Odd accepting the supernatural part of his life just about right, tonally it’s much like Zombieland. Just try to be like Odd and pretend that you can’t see the bodachs and you should be alright. Because they are just rubbish.