Thursday, July 10, 2014

Film of Odd Thomas Captures Voice, Spirit of Novel

That the film Odd Thomas went straight to DVD is no reflection on its qualities, which are those of the title character.  Created by novelist Dean Koontz, embodied and voiced by young actor Anton Yelchin, "Odd" is modest, funny, guardedly cheerful, interested in the people around him -- living and dead. Like the film, which got caught in a netherworld between lawsuits and distribution, "Odd" inhabits this world but can see into the world beyond. (Read my response to the novel.)

As in Raymond Chandler's classic "Marlowe" novels, the narrator's voice is more important to our enjoyment of the story than the story itself.   Critics who fault director Stephen Sommers for voice-over narration evidently miss Odd's charm -- except for the critic who thought it was too charming.  For me, the time reading and watching the story is like spending time with a kind and exuberant friend, whose patter doesn't cloy.  That said, Sommers keeps explanations to a minimum with flashbacks that really go by in a flash, and instant replay that refocuses us on significant clues that Odd has noticed. 

Aside from gory spirits, a foray into hell, and translucent demons that swarm like roaches, this really is a simple detective story.  Odd opens and closes a murder case in the first moments of the movie, when the mute young victim points to her killer.  The main investigation begins with Odd's premonition that a massacre is planned for Odd's sunny little town.  For clues to the who, what, where, and how, he searches a home, looks through files, stakes out a bowling alley, and examines a corpse at different stages of nausea-inspiring decay.  Mute spirits sometimes help him to find clues, and sometimes get in his way, but it's really a human-sized story for our humane lead character.  

Too bad for the critics who complain that it's small-scale and that it doesn't live up to their expectations of  apocalypse.   I, for one, stopped going to movies regularly when I got tired of seeing the entire planet threatened in every movie, and in the previews, too.  I've longed for a movie scaled to human proportions. 

Exciting series; delightful movie.  Spoiler alert:  I also start crying about five minutes before the hero does. 

Reflection on the film Odd Thomas, directed by Stephen Sommers, based on the novel of the same name by Dean Koontz. Anton Yelchin plays the title role; Addison Timlin plays "Stormy," and William Dafoe plays the police chief. Read my reflections on the Odd Thomas series here.

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