Monday, June 2, 2014

Odd Thomas Review

Odd Thomas Review

I was introduced to Stephen King by my dad, and ever since learning King’s name, I have been fascinated by him. Anything by King I tried to get my grubby mitts on at some point or another. All the while I was reading Stephen King growing up, my dad also brought up another author named Dean Koontz. My dad always told me that Koontz was quite similar to King and he thought I’d like him too. I never sat down to read any of Koontz’s work so far, not that I feel I wouldn’t like him but because I never really had the time or the drive to. “Odd Thomas” the latest movie starring Anton Yelchin and Willem Dafoe, is a film adaptation of a book by Kootnz and it is my first exposure to Koontz.

Based upon my reaction to the film, it seems Koontz and King do have some similarities but their voices couldn’t be further from each other. Again, that is simply based on my opinion of the novel that was adapted to screen. I didn’t read anything about the book before sitting down to watch this movie and I have no idea what the outside world or Koontz himself has to say about it. I went into this one completely cold turkey, and I think I am glad that I did. Sometimes I like for a movie to just kind of play out for me, instead of doing some minor research on it before I sit down to watch it. But, as I said, based on the entire King catalogue I soaked up throughout my life, I don’t see a whole lot of similarity to the two authors.

Anton Yelchin plays Odd Thomas and as the film opens, he makes sure the audience understands that his real name is Odd Thomas. He goes through this hilarious explanation about how his birth name was suppose to be Todd, but a mix-up at the hospital left his name “Odd.”  Odd Thomas has clairvoyant powers that allow him to be psychic and also gives him the power to talk to dead people. So he uses these powers to help police catch criminals. As the film opens, Odd is tracking down a man who raped and murdered a little girl and hands him over to the police, particularly Officer Wyatt Porter (Dafoe), whom Odd works close with. It is just a normal rest of the day for Odd when he starts to see demons all around him and unlocks a mystery which could lead to Hell on Earth. He plans to stop the threat before it is too late. While also evading police that don’t trust his powers and also keeping his love life in check with Stormy Llewellyn (Addison Timlin), who knows all about his psychic powers.

One thing that “Odd Thomas” has going for it is that it has a humor that is helpful and somewhat relentless. The way Yelchin voice-over works throughout the entire film is golden and I particularly love how he acts when he isn’t in voice-over mode. There is also a hip style to the movie that really pays off. The film never feels like a slapstick type of funny, but an edgy, offbeat funny that I found effective. I have no idea how Koontz’s book differed from the final product of this movie, but I definitely thought this movie had a lot of great energy in it, I thought it featured a style that fit into the context of the film. I liked that it took a reasonable premise for an all-out horror movie and did something different with it. This isn’t the brutal darkness we are used to from someone like Stephen King, which is why I feel it’s a strange rejection to his work.

Another thing that helps this film is how good the performances are, especially from Anton Yelchin. If we did not believe in Yelchin, this movie would not have worked at all, and he really relishes everything he does. There is a reason why we couldn’t take our eyes off of him during the new “Star Trek” movies, there is a reason why he was the best part of “Terminator: Salvation.” Yelchin is becoming one of the best actors of his generation, and I hope to God that he gets more leading work. His chemistry with Timlin is adorable and they have many great scenes together. Dafoe is being his normal self, but that is not a bad thing at all. Dafoe is quite effective in all of his scenes and gave the film a freshness it truly needed. I must warn you about the brief but humorous cameos by Arnold Vasloo and Patton Oswalt, both of which made the experience that much better.

There is some special effects work with some of the demons and monsters we see in the film and it isn’t the best effects we have seen in our lives. Yet somehow I think that is part of the point. The special effects we see in this film will remind you of 1997’s “Spawn” or willfully silly “Mortal Kombat” movies of that decade, but it somehow works for the film rather than against it. The film was directed by Stephen Sommers, who has had a roller-coaster of a career with “The Mummy” franchise, “Van Helsing” and “G.I. Joe.” Each of those films featured crummy CGI, but he somehow found the glory in all the cheesiness. With “Odd Thomas” that is once again the case, the effects were poor but it somehow enriched the experience.

The one problem I had with the film is how it began to lack near the end. It lacked so much that I checked out much time was left on the film and was flabbergasted to learn that I still had another half-hour of running time left. When someone is checking their watch for the time, it is never a good sign. For some reason, the film began to move at a snail’s pace and that definitely took away from the experience for me. Had the film kept firing on the same cylinders that began the film, I’d be weeping right now. But, those lacking problems certainly lacked on me.

Despite a slow finish, I think “Odd Thomas” is movie worth checking out at least once. There is an edgy, darkly humorous vibe to the film that I found addicting. Plus, the great work by Yelchin and Dafoe will no doubt keep you interested and watching. I think I will keep an eye out for Koontz as an author now and I can’t wait to see where that road leads me. As for the movie I just watched, it is definitely worth checking out.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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