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Movie Maniac ‘Odd Thomas’ holds more than a few surprises

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, March 30, 2014, at 12 a.m.

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It’s always sad to see a movie go down in flames before it even had a chance. It’s even worse when the movie deserved better.

“Odd Thomas” is just such a case. It sounded so promising, based on a best-selling novel by Dean Koontz that was the first in a series of popular books featuring the titular protagonist.

Anton Yelchin (Chekov from the “Star Trek” reboots) was cast as the lead, and Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe was cast in a principal role, with Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy”) directing.

But that was about three years ago.

Then in January 2013, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the film’s producers filed a lawsuit against the film’s investors, alleging that $25 million should have been spent on prints and advertising to support the film’s release. They also wanted another $10 million to partially refinance loans.

The lawsuit delayed the release of “Odd Thomas” indefinitely, which was frustrating to fans eager to see the film adaptation.

It was also no doubt discouraging to the filmmakers and stars.

Koontz himself voiced support for the film, saying on his website after he saw it that “I wasn’t sure anyone could ever adapt a Koontz book as a feature film and capture the flavor and essentials of it. Steve Sommers has done it with great panache. There’s probably a law against being as happy as I am right now.”

That was in May 2012.

Well, everything finally – somehow – got resolved and “Odd Thomas” was picked up by Image Entertainment and had a limited theatrical release in 10 markets last month before being released on DVD on Tuesday.

The film certainly didn’t deserve to be shelved, and it’s great that it finally gets to be seen. It’s absolutely fun, but not for everyone. It’s macabre, comic, tragic and even romantic, even though it, at times, tries a little too hard to be liked. But that’s also part of its irreverent charm.

Yelchin’s Odd Thomas (yes, that is his real name) is just a regular guy who works as a short-order cook at the local diner in a quaint California town. But he also has a not-so-regular ability: He can communicate with the dead.

“I see dead people,” Odd says. “But then, by God, I actually do something about it.”

So when he sees a stranger wander into the diner followed by “bodachs” – ghostly predators that feed on pain and portend mass destruction – he knows the town is in for big trouble.

Together with his girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin), Odd tries to figure out the mystery with the help of the local sheriff (Dafoe), who knows of Odd’s abilities (so does his girlfriend).

The story unfolds in typical mystery fashion, picking up clues, piecing them together. It’s engaging though hardly riveting. What’s more interesting is Odd’s personality and his loving relationship with Stormy. The film has a very surprising emotional wallop in the end.

That’s due to some fantastic performances. Timlin is all too game if a bit too adorable. Dafoe is clearly having a great time in an atypical comedic role. But it’s Yelchin who provides the heart and soul of the film. He’s too gangly to be heroic, too self-deprecating to be tough, but we connect with him, somehow, and root for him all the way.

He’s like the “out-there” buddy everyone has. If that buddy could see ghosts.

“Odd Thomas” is perhaps aptly named. It’s all-out quirky, but very funny, stylish and holds more than a few surprises. But if you’re looking for pure horror, that isn’t on the menu. There are plenty of otherworldly things going on, but it’s never really scary.

Still, it’s a dark treat. One that, thankfully, gets to be seen.

Reach Rod Pocowatchit at rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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