Say “hello,” if not “welcome,” to a new kind of action hero: a short-order cook in a New Mexico diner who made it through high school but has no interest in college, in fact no ambition at all. He’s too busy solving crimes to do homework. His name is a birth certificate screw-up (he was supposed to be “Todd”). He says he doesn’t understand why he’s such a local celebrity. He’s not the child of a celebrity or a friend of anyone who ever donated a kidney to a celebrity. But Odd Thomas does live an unusual life. He’s sort of a cross between a teenage X-Man and Robin without the Batmobile, and he flips great pancakes. Between cheeseburgers, he believes in a higher power and an afterlife, and he sees ghosts of murder victims walking on water in swimming pools. He also talks to dead people, like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. His mom is in the loony bin. His father sells pieces of the moon online. Odd is part psychic, part clairvoyant and a total whack job. So is this movie.
Odd Thomas ★★
Written and directed by: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin and Leonor Varela
Running time: 100 min.
What makes it worth watching is the terrific and versatile young actor Anton Yelchin in the title role. Odd has a special paranormal talent for detecting blood, even when it’s invisible, to the consternation of the local police chief (Willem Dafoe). This power, like Superman’s kryptonite, is also a secret to everyone except his girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin), who scoops ice cream and tolerates his fantasies. She can’t see the violent, sweeping spirits he calls Bodachs—leaping, crawling, swirling masses of Tinker Toys wrapped in Saran, predatory see-through ectoplasms that appear whenever someone is in danger—but when he says they are “attracted to evil like bees to flowers,” she takes his word for it. Whenever the Bodachs show up, walls turn into vines, rooms freeze into the subzero temperatures of meat lockers, and nobody is safe. Mr. Yelchin is sincere even when he has to dispense corn like “Fate is not a straight road—there are many forks in it.”
The new villain the Bodachs are circling like buzzards is a creep called Fungus Bob who collects files of the world’s great serial killers in a house in the desert that features severed heads and an icebox full of cockroaches. He’s not alone. Suddenly, Odd uncovers not one killer but three. In the literary fashion of Mickey Spillane, he says, “One more, and they could buy group health insurance for a former rock band.” A satanic cult masquerading as cops who plan to stage the apocalypse in a small New Mexico town called Pico Mundo? Based on a thriller by Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas is comic book twaddle that defies analysis, designed for either the teenage market or grown-ups with a high tolerance for video games and wholesale whimsy, somewhat redeemed by the charisma of the inventive Mr. Yelchin. The writer-director is Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), who is better at staging action scenes with the kind of panache you rarely get from a limited budget than he is as a writer, saddling Mr. Yelchin with annoying off-screen narration like “Stormy is always joking abut running off to Las Vegas and getting married, but I tell her Vegas is packed with dead people and bad guys and I’d just end up fighting evil 24/7.”
Odd Thomas has high-speed chases, explosions, narrow escapes and masses of special effects—none special enough, I’m afraid, to save it from mediocrity.