Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Odd Thomas (2014): The Infection of YA

Odd Thomas (2014)
dir: Stephen Sommers

Have you ever watched a film while knowing it was an adaptation of a book, but then wondered what the original book was actually like? That's the experience I had with Odd Thomas, a movie based on a book series by Dean Koontz. While watching the film Odd Thomas, I couldn't help but wonder if Dean Koontz, once a heavy hitter in the adult thriller section, had delved into the financially lucrative YA realm like so many had before him.

Oddly, this is a wrong assumption. Odd Thomas is an adult thriller, complete with rape and murder, that Koontz made into a series. Adult thriller/detective series are common now, and also lucrative, but the tonality and subject matter in the film Odd Thomas has been crafted to mimic a sort of ABC Family/Disney-esque show which feels like a backlot kids show rather than an adult thriller.

Odd Thomas, the title character, is a short-order cook who is also a psychic junior detective whose mother went insane and committed to a ward. He dates a girl whom everybody calls Stormy who also is a manager at the mall ice cream parlor. Odd's psychic ability is known to the police captain and to Stormy, but he keeps it a secret so he doesn't get locked away. That secret? He has psychic premonitions in his dreams, and he also sees dead people, and he also sees weird creatures called Bodachs, who apparently hang around the world anytime they smell an evil death.

Odd lives in a tiny town where everybody knows everybody else it seems. I don't know how else to explain the opening scene where Odd is haunted by a ghost who has been murdered by her boyfriend. Then Odd goes wandering around and runs into the boyfriend in his shiny old Chevelle and they both know each other, before Odd reveals he knows what happened. How do they know each other? I don't know. The movie barely explains because it is too busy revealing the psychic ability of Odd before making him chase the murderer through the neighborhood, crashing a pool party and knocking him out cold.

This is a scene of brevity because it has nothing to do with the plot other than serving as an introduction to Odd's psychic abilities and his relations to the police chief, who comes to clean up the mess. The real movie starts when Odd, while working as a cook, sees a man with fungus in his hair. Or something. Really, it looks like a goofy knit yarn cap. But, it's supposed to be fungus. This fungus man is Bob Robertson, whom they then dub Fungus Bob, and he's being followed by a LOT of bodachs because something bad is going to happen.

So, the main characters so far are Odd, Stormy, Bob "Fungus Bob" Robertson, and Police Chief Wyatt Porter. Later, we'll meet Ozzie P. Boone (for one scene). Throughout the movie there are many shootings, dreams of shootings, dreams of blood, and plenty of goofiness, and such...but the majority of the violence is toned way way down compared to normal thrillers. This is a movie which is toned for television. No swearing. Stormy, though she shows up in her panties, doesn't have sex with Odd, but they go on picnics. Backstories of strippers and drug-using ex husbands are glossed over in mere sentences. Odd Thomas the film has been sanitized for your pleasure...

...except for the finale. So, if you don't want to know the ending, skip the rest of this as there is some real world discussion that needs to happen with the finale. Just know, that Odd Thomas is a sanitized almost PG-rated version of a Dean Koontz novel. If you want that, then you might like it. If that's not what you wanted, then it's awful.

The whole plot of Odd Thomas revolves around a mass murder of some kind that Odd must find out based on a dream of a bunch of people in bowling shirts who carry Odd while they get shot. It turns out, that there is a satanic cult in this sleepy burg, and they were going to blow up the mall after shooting it up, because apparently if you shoot up a mall, the security locks all the doors or something? I'm not really sure about that logic, but what the finale does is prey on real life situations in recent past.

One whole part of Odd Thomas feels like an NRA recruiting video. One of the mall gunmen has an automatic weapon which he uses to kill a few people, but is killed by Odd firing a handgun at the gunman's head. This leads to the thought process of guns have the potential to do good and bad. The moral of this section of the finale is that the police don't have the time to get to the mall to have any real impact on the murders which happen quickly, so regular citizens could stop it to stem the actual number of deaths. Just as Odd, who isn't really a police officer, does.

But, Odd doesn't save Stormy, who is a casualty of the shooting. But, he shacks up with her ghost for a few days before his friends come and rescue him. The rescue and reveal of Stormy's death feels a bit tacked on to say that guns can actually kill the people we love, even if we think we stopped it in time.

Odd Thomas is directed by Stephen Sommers, who had helmed the first three entries of The Mummy reboot, before succumbing to Van Helsing and the first G.I. Joe film. Which is to say, Sommers loves family movies, and he loves guns. He loves family movies with guns. And, he made a family thriller out of an adult thriller with an emphasis on loving guns. Which kind of sums up the movie.

Odd Thomas is a family thriller that loves guns made out of an adult thriller that might have also loved guns. The darker and grungier material of a typical Koontz novel are worn away to give a more holistically wholesome feel to the character and, hopefully, garner more cash if the movie made it to the box office. But, it doesn't work. The movie has been worn down too far to give it much punch (there are a couple of goofily fun scenes with Fungus Bob), but the overall impact feels too clean for a movie that's about mass murder.

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