If Ghostbusters and Ferris Bueller's Day Off ever had a love child, it'd be Odd Thomas, an endearing, witty romantic dramedy-slash-supernatural-thriller about a small desert town in California beset by demonic apparitions and a satanic cabal of deranged would-be mass murderers.
Adapted from the Dean Koontz novel and directed by Hollywood middleweight Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), the $27 million pic stars the always-brilliant Anton Yelchin as oddball short-order cook and ghost wrangler Odd Thomas. (His mom tells him a typo in the birth certificate reduced him from Todd to Odd, while his dad insists Odd was his proper given name.)
When Odd, who narrates the story Ferris Bueller-style, isn't flipping pancakes at the diner on Main Street or nuzzling with his devoted, diminutive sexpot of a girlfriend, Stormy Llewellyn (Addison Timlin), he helps murdered souls find justice.
"I may see dead people," he tells the camera, "but then, by God, I do something about it."
Odd is svelte, almost lanky, and all thumbs, and he's more likely to be seen on a cherry-red scooter than in an Aston Martin, but the self-described "undercover detective for dead people" knows his martial arts, and he's an old hand at tracking down evildoers and delivering them to the town police chief, Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe).
Odd Thomas shifts into thriller mode when Odd notices that one of the town's creepiest dudes is always accompanied by a posse of wraithlike creatures called bodachs. See, these demonic types live off fear and pain, and show up when a violent event is about to occur.
While Odd Thomas is nicely outfitted with diverting set pieces, comic situations, and a seriously smoldering romance, it errs on the cloying. Yelchin, solid for the most part, relies on the teen cuteness that served him so well in Charlie Bartlett.
The special effects seem out of date, silly. The bodachs, especially, look like the discards from a computer animation seminar.
The biggest problem with Odd Thomas isn't the film itself, but the bad rep it has accrued. Slated for a 2011 release, it was stuck for nearly three years in a litigious limbo, finally to be released quietly, on the sly. In the meantime, cast, director, and producers alike seem to have moved on, leaving the film bereft of the PR campaign that could have helped it become at least a sleeper hit, if not a blockbuster.
It's a shame: Yelchin deserves the exposure, the chance finally to become an A-list heavyweight.
Directed by Stephen Sommers. With Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, Addison Timlin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Distributed by Image Entertainment.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Parent's guide: not rated (profanity, sexual situations, some violence)
Playing at: area theatersEndText