Editor’s Notes: Odd Thomas will be playing at Toronto Cineplex (Y&D) on Sunday Feb 16 at 9:30, Tuesday Feb 18, at 9:30pm, and Wednesday Feb 19 at 3:45pm.
The main character in Odd Thomas sees dead people, which one might hope would have shaped him in some way. Generally, the events in our lives help us to develop into the people we are. They alter our perspective, our attitudes, our hopes and dreams. Throughout the film, people keep telling Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) character traits that he apparently is. “You’re a strange one, Odd” he is told by any number of people. But in fact, the strangest thing about him is how unimaginably mundane Odd Thomas and the film that shares his name manages to be.
People keep telling Odd what kind of person he is because this is what passes for characterization in Odd Thomas. And lord, could this movie use some.
Based on the novel by Dean Koontz (and scripted and directed by Stephen Sommers), the film follows Odd, who uses his ability to see dead people like every character in fiction who sees dead people tends to—to solve murders and stop crimes before they occur. Alongside the Police Chief (Willem Dafoe, barely emoting beyond a vague recognition that he remains Willem Dafoe) who begrudgingly admires his work and Stormy (Addison Timlin, bringing new meaning to the word “wooden”), the girlfriend who inexplicably loves him more than life itself (which we learn when she says that exactly), Odd sets out to stop a catastrophe he has foretold from occurring.
People keep telling Odd what kind of person he is because this is what passes for characterization in Odd Thomas. And lord, could this movie use some. Yelchin’s central performance is so vacant, none of these traits stick to him. He floats through the movie, stubbornly refusing to accumulate any detail beyond vague disaffection and stilted smart-ass quips. Stormy and Odd have zero chemistry, even though much of the film’s emotional stakes hinge on us buying these two lovebirds as destined to be together forever. Despite the fact that they have apparently been dating for their entire lives, their conversations are chock full of unnatural banter that feels ripped from a bad first date. Sadly, the rest of the dialogue is no better, filled to the brim with terrible, awkward exposition, awful, unfunny attempts at humor, and inexplicable utterances like Stormy’s asking a terrified Odd “You’re not shivering because of cold ice cream, are you?”
An inability to understand human speech patterns or basic behaviors is sadly not the only flaw that befalls the film, which feels like it wants to be in the same vein as Don Coscarelli’s John Dies At The End…
An inability to understand human speech patterns or basic behaviors is sadly not the only flaw that befalls the film, which feels like it wants to be in the same vein as Don Coscarelli’s John Dies At The End (or perhaps even the incredibly fun Craig Gillespie remake of Fright Night, which featured an Anton Yelchin performance so much more charming and fun than he is here, I briefly wondered if he had sustained brain damage prior to filming), yet it lacks the mordant wit, charismatic performances, and creative verve to be in the same ballpark. And when it tries to shed it’s strained attempts at morbid humor, most of which fall painfully flat, to become a suspenseful thriller or to tug at our emotional heartstrings, it makes one long for the moments when the film was throwing out limp laugh lines.
Odd Thomas really seems to find its plot interesting, for reasons I cannot fathom. It would be tonally discordant if it wasn’t consistently bungling each emotion it tries to evoke; it’s ineptitude lends the film a sad through line whether we are watching an interminable running gag where Yelchin calls Dafoe while the latter is trying to romance his wife, an oddly staged fight sequence like the one that opens the film, or one of the endless scenes where Yelchin and Timlin make eyes at each other but mostly just look bored to death. It takes a special skill to be this constantly incompetent, and Odd Thomas is the sort of awful that reminds viewers not all bad films are fun to watch and mock. The farting corpse that serves as a gag in one scene is a shockingly apt metaphor for the film’s artistic contributions. The only thing strange, or memorable, about Odd Thomas is how thoroughly unexceptional it manages to be. The film will leave no more a mark on you than it’s hero’s miraculous ability has left on him. Minutes after the end credits have rolled, all that remains is a bad taste in your mouth and the vague memory of something bad happening to you. It’s haunting, almost. But to earn that distinction, it would probably have to be interesting.
[notification type=”star”]32/100 ~ AWFUL. It takes a special skill to be this constantly incompetent, and Odd Thomas is the sort of awful that reminds viewers not all bad films are fun to watch and mock. [/notification]