Friday, December 09, 2016


Though I've never read any of Dean Koontz's "Odd Thomas" series, I'd been aware of the movie adaptation of the first book for some time now.

This story centers on a young man (actually named Odd Thomas) with an array of psychic powers. He can see dead people (though they're incapable of "speech," in the literal sense). He can also see bodachs, strange creatures whose arrival portends great disaster. And in the hero's own words, when he sees trouble coming, "he does something about it." Odd Thomas follows his efforts to stop the biggest tragedy he's ever encountered, foretold by bodach swarms far larger than any he's ever seen.

This movie is aiming at a sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer kind of space. It's a supernatural tale that generally stays light in tone, but wants to go for drama at times. The protagonist has a "Scooby gang" of sorts, a small number of non-powered friends on his side. The movie doesn't reach the level of good Buffy, but it's probably fair to say it's at least as good as an average first season episode (and maybe better).

The movie is directed and adapted by Stephen Sommers, the man who gave us the first two action-packed in The Mummy franchise (among other similar fare). He's working here on a much tighter budget, and the ambition is scaled down accordingly. Still, there are some decisions here (presumably from Koontz's original book) that really work. We don't get any sort of "origin story" for Odd Thomas; we just find out what we need to know about him along the way. Odd's not out to save the world, he's just trying to avert an impending crisis on a local scale (and that's plenty). The mystery is also rather compelling -- not a whodunnit, but a who-will-do-it and a what's-he-gonna-do?

Yet there are definitely some things that stand in the movie's way. The humor doesn't always work. In fact, the dialogue in general is pretty stiff and manufactured throughout. And then there's a truly terrible musical score, by composer John Swihart. It's hokey and cheap, on par with a bad cable TV movie, and sometimes actually dragging the movie down to that level.

There's also a bittersweet aspect to the casting in the film, one that couldn't have been anticipated at the time it was made. Odd Thomas is played by Anton Yelchin, whose accidental death earlier this year at age 27 was widely reported. With themes of death so prevalent in the story, you're often reminded about Yelchin's real world fate. And he's trying so hard here, pouring charisma into the part and basically being the best thing about the movie.

I wish the actual execution could have been as compelling as the story itself. Moreover, I wish Anton Yelchin could have been in a better Odd Thomas movie, or could have lived to make another. Maybe all this is reason to look to Koontz's original novels instead.

The movie isn't a total loss, but it is something of a disappointment. I'd ballpark it around an optimistic B- (but maybe a realistic C+).

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