The local marketing for Odd Thomas makes the movie appear to be just another horror movie. It isn’t. Odd Thomas is based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name, and is really more of a teenage detective story with supernatural elements. And it’s pretty good, too. The film’s central mystery could use some work, but the world surrounding this flawed mystery is terribly compelling, filled as it is with interesting characters, well-developed relationships, and a wicked sense of humor.
Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) isn't like other teenagers. He can see things from outside of the natural realm, like ghosts and demons. Working with the town's sheriff (Willem Dafoe), he uses these skills to catch the occasional criminal. One day, he notices unusual numbers of demons hanging around the town, which indicates that something horrible is about to go down. Odd, with the help of his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin), investigates their sudden appearance, and set out to stop the disaster before it happens.
The movie is a little too convinced of its own quirkiness, which leads to some painfully cutesy dialogue. But it's a small price to pay for what is essentially a young adult story that bucks some of the conventions of the genre. It doesn't linger too much in the false angst of being an outsider, or spend most of its time looking for a romantic interest. It begins with all these issues already resolved, the character already at a point where he can actually look beyond himself. It pretty much dives straight into a supernatural detective story, wasting little time as it gets into the meat of the plot.
The plot itself is a little too reliant on easy contrivances, but it works well enough. The mystery serves up a couple of interesting turns, and it manages to keep up a thrilling sense of impending disaster, even when the characters decide to take a narrative detour. The film does a good job of establishing a unique flavor to the proceedings, somewhere halfway between macabre humor and teenage drama. The visual effects won't really impress anyone, but they get the job done. Director Stephen Sommers transcends technical limitations with a palpable sense of adventure.
Anton Yelchin is yet to really establish what he can do as an actor. But he proves to be a compelling lead in this movie, if a touch too much like Joseph Gordon Levitt. As his leading lady, Addison Timlin is solid if a bit of an awkward fit with Yelchin. They don’t quite have the easy chemistry that their characters seem to suggest, but they do well enough given the occasional stiltedness of the material. Willem Dafoe’s considerable talents aren’t put to enough use, but his presence is always welcome.
Odd Thomas has deficiencies as a narrative, but this still somehow results in a fairly solid movie. The film makes up for the plot holes with copious amounts of flavor, filling in all those gaps with strong character work and a considerably fleshed out world. But really, it’s just kind of refreshing to see a story about a young man that isn’t just about falling in love, that doesn’t have to devote its time to the tired patterns and truncated emotions of cinematic courtships. The film begins with the novel idea of a young man who has already found his love, and thus has something real to fight for.