Odd Thomas is a film based on the book by Dean Koontz about a young psychic named Odd who can see spirits and demons. This hidden realm though invisible to most people, is intrinsically linked with them, and Odd uses his gift to protect the people around him. His ability to see ghosts puts him into a position of writing wrongs, bringing justice for murder victims, and trying to thwart future catastrophes, all this whilst trying to juggle his love life and his job as a fry cook.
The plot is very unique and somewhat quirky, for instance there are creatures known as Bodachs who feed off human disasters and therefore if you can see them, their presence can foretell the coming of tragedies. Additions such as this to what could be a typical and predictable plot about a psychic, not only makes for a unique story it also makes it an intriguing one. The film interweaves a plot regarding ghosts, demons, retribution, serial killers, terrorists, both psychic and police investigations, not to mention the concept of soul mates and love, and the end result is a pleasing mix of humor, action, thrills, and even sorrow.
Written, directed, and produced by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) this film I assume is something he wanted to make since Sommers is so involved with its creation. That being said, Stephen hasn’t done a brilliant job in all of his assumed roles, certain aspects of the film are good and others are painfully bad, the end result is a mixed bag of very pleasing and off-putting.
The writing is one of the better elements of the movie, there’s a snappy and breezy feel about the whole thing; the conversation is believable, it’s sometimes witty, and at times poignant. Now I must point out that I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how much of this is thanks to Stephen Sommers and how much is lifted directly from the novel, but if lines like “I know it’s a gift, I still have the box it came in” (referring to Odd’s psychic brain and the head in which it resides) along with the film’s closing lines regarding life, death, and the afterlife are down to Sommers then he’s a decent writer. It has been reported that whilst in pre-production, Dean Koontz approved of the script saying he “fell over” when he read it because it was “so perfect”. Whether the version that made it onto the screen was the same version Koontz read is unknown, but I can see why he was impressed by the screenplay.
The direction on the other hand is unfortunately very mediocre and sometimes visually tacky. The constant speed-ramping during action scenes makes for an out-of-style, late nineties aesthetic. There’s also the addition of numerous flashbacks which look very amateurish, one of the first flashbacks the audience is introduced to where Odd recalls his mother being sectioned is just cringe-worthy to watch. This wannabe Guy Ritchie style of directing coupled with the horrendous soundtrack which sounds like it’s been stolen directly from Ritchie’s Rock-N-Rolla, gives the movie a completely wrong tone. Surely a plot regarding death and the supernatural should be more scary and less like a TV show targeted to teenagers in 1999?
Having said that, the ending of the movie is quite deftly handled; the twist is well concealed, and the reveal is very emotional, possibly because of the late Anton Yelchin’s acting skills, or maybe because of the lines themselves – for that portion of the film Sommers successfully makes you shed a tear or two.
I assume this was a pet project for Stephen Sommers who seems to have put his all into this film, but somewhere along the line, either because the budget was too restrictive (which is evident during the explosion scene) or because the studio wanted to keep this a PG-13, either way the end result seems to have fallen short of making what could have been a much better movie. As I understand it, the more mature themes such as rape and molestation which were present in the novel were kept out of this film and this I assume has drastically changed the tone. Even though I haven’t yet read the book, the end result even to me feels watered-down, tame, and overly childish. That being said, there’s something strangely (or should I say oddly) likeable about the whole thing; it’s entertaining, it’s paced very well, and it’s kind of charming. Anton Yelchin is great as Odd, and had he not passed away in 2016, there could have been a few more outings for the character who is both interesting and captivating.
Odd Thomas was a box-office flop, and for some of the reasons above I can see why. But, having said that, what this film did successfully do is make me want to read the actual Odd Thomas novel (or novels) which I now know contain a premise that’s very appealing. Despite its shortcomings, I have watched this film several times because there’s something infectious and delightful about the whole thing. Maybe with a bigger budget, changes in tone and direction, not to mention some stylistic tweaks, this adaptation could have been a success. But, as it stands Odd Thomas is still fun, lively, and overall very enjoyable.