Odd Thomas: Film Review

Enjoyable but unlikely to spawn a new pulpy franchise.

Stephen Sommers casts Anton Yelchin as an everyman trying to outwit supernatural forces.

An otherwise-normal guy who "sees dead people" finds himself trying to avert calamity in Odd Thomas, a friendly piece of pulp from Stephen Sommers. Given the director's franchise-pic background (The Mummy, G.I. Joe), source material by bestseller Dean Koontz, and a cast of up-and-comers led by Anton Yelchin, viewers may expect a somewhat larger production than this slight affair, where effects are blockbuster-worthy but action takes a backseat to a likeable, low-key vibe. Commercial prospects are modest, and a sequel suggested by the closing scene (Koontz wrote a handful of Odd novels) seems unlikely as Yelchin moves on to better things.

The young actor plays the eponymous character (yes, "Odd" is his given name), an unambitious fry cook in the fictional California town Pico Mundo (played here by Santa Fe, New Mexico). All is well in Odd's world: he has a gorgeous and loving girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin is a bit too perfectly cute in the part); he's a rock star at the griddle, drawing a loyal crowd at breakfast. Most importantly, the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) doesn't think he's insane when his paranormal gifts consistently land him in the middle of mysteries.

(Sommers skips the usual "origin story" routine, introducing supporting characters who've already digested the fact that Odd receives visits from the dead — often those who've met with foul play and need his help bringing killers to justice. As fans of superhero reboots know, origins are often the best part of the story.)

Trouble brews when Odd starts seeing swarms of "Bodachs," creepy translucent beasts that are drawn to impending acts of violence. The number and excitement of the creatures (who of course are invisible to everyone else) suggests that something truly horrible is going to happen in Pico Mundo, and Odd is intent on preventing it.

This is where the screenplay has some: Despite the many distress calls and new leads Odd and Stormy hand over to the cops, and the ticking-clock nature of the danger they uncover, we're meant to believe that Chief Porter keeps going back home in between red alerts to enjoy date night with his wife. When the phone rings for the third time mid-romance, Porter's reluctant engagement doesn't reflect his faith in Odd's always-right gifts. This coitus-interruptus routine is surely intended as comic relief, but it serves to deflate what tension the film generates. Similarly underwhelming are the numerous voiceovers that fill storytelling gaps with cheap "here's what happened" explanation.

Tech values generally outshine the rushed-feeling script, and cast and crew generate an enjoyable sense of community in Odd's hometown. Odd Thomas just doesn't leave us with much desire to return there.

Production Company: The Sommers Company
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Director-Screenwriter: Stephen Sommers
Based on the novel by Dean R. Koontz
Producers: John Baldecchi, Howard Kaplan, Stephen Sommers
Executive producers: Michael Arata, Des Carey, Jerry Daigl, James Gibb, Pavan Grover, Jason Hewitt, Carsten H.W. Lorenz, Stephen Margolis
Director of photography: Mitchell Amundsen
Production designer:
Music: John Swihart
Costume designer: Lisa Jensen
Editor: David Checel
No rating, 96 minutes