ATTEND THE TALE
I’m still working hard to get all of the sequences done for my new holiday TV special, Dancing with the Star: MNM’s Salute to Holidays around the World. The Indian government refused to allow us to film our Diwali sequence at the Taj Mahal, something about the effect of tap shoes on marble, so we’re making do with the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant on Pico Boulevard. Sameer has been very generous with our use of the location as long as we are out of the way of the lunch rush. As soon as we finish that, we start on a St. Lucia number celebrating our Scandinavian neighbors. Mary Gee and Kim Dee, my seamstresses, ran up a very traditional St. Lucia costume for me out of white poplin but it’s just a little too staid for an audience with HD television and a taste for various Kardashians. I’m having them remake it in a tasteful hot pink sequined fabric with purple marabou trim. I’m also having the traditional candles in the crown replaced with the Roman variety to give the number a little more pizzazz. Scandinavia is much too dark and cold for filming this time of year so we’re going to throw some fake snow on the Santa Monica pier for that seaside fjord feeling when we film the sequence.
I am still despairing of the authors of my other project, the football musical Any Given Sunday in the Park. They have yet to grasp the concept that a paying audience that comes to see a Vicki Lester musical wants to see Vicki Lester and they will have to figure out a way to get me into more of the football scenes and give me at least two more ballads and an eleven o’clock tap number. I’ve spoken to Dr. Paul about using the Lena Lamont singers as a backup chorus so that I can record demos of a number or two so that we can get some airplay and finish raising the money necessary for a Broadway production from potential backers. Punting it Together will be a great first release and should get quite the airplay. Studio time is expensive so we can just use my rehearsal studio here at Chateau Maine for the sessions. The acoustics are quite lovely. I better remind myself to call Mimi, my vocal therapist before we lay down the tracks though. The high E flats aren’t as easy as they once were.
Normy is off in Nashville picking up some country musicians for his new cantata, The Satanic Verses, so I have Chateau Maine to myself and after pouring myself a lovely sloe gin fizz, I headed off to the home theater to see what I could find on the Netflix. The horrors of film and theatrical production made me feel the need for a horror movie so I flicked through genre choices and finally settled on Odd Thomas, a rather odd movie from director Stephen Sommers (the man behind the Brendan Fraser The Mummy trilogy) based on the first of a series of novels by author Dean Koontz. Koontz has never been my cup of tea, coming across as a Stephen King manqué most of the time, but Odd Thomas appears to be a beloved character in his pantheon, appearing in a number of novels, both traditional and graphic.
Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is actually Odd Thomas (it was to be Todd Thomas but there was a mistake on his birth certificate, which is just as well because he might then be confused with a famous opera singer of my acquaintance) and is a young short order cook in a diner in a small California desert town that looks suspiciously like Albuquerque New Mexico. Young Odd is different. He has psychic abilities which allow the dead to appear and communicate to him. They never speak, but he can tell what they are trying to tell him. As the film begins, a young girl who was brutally raped and murdered appears to him and leads him to Harlo (Matthew Page), her murderer. There is a chase and a capture and chief of police Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) accepts Odd’s abilities to solve crimes without too many questions. We then learn that Odd not only sees the dead, he sees creepy spirits, bodachs, that feed on human pain and suffering and gather when murder and mayhem are about to commence. These slithery brown things, a cross between the dementors from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the rotting mummy soldiers from The Mummy, are starting to swarm the town. Something very evil is coming and Odd doesn’t know what it is. He and his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) who works at the ice cream store in the local mega mall, try to work out what’s going on and think it’s related to a stranger in town whom they dub Fungus Bob (Shuler Helmsley). Bodachs seem to be following him wherever he goes. Odd’s detective work begins to turn up more and more disturbing information about a satanic cult that has its sights set on mass destruction and it’s up to Odd to save the day.
Stephen Sommers is a fairly inventive filmmaker. His original The Mummy was a lovely pastiche of old Warner Brothers’ adventure films and had a certain lightness and brio to it that made it hugely entertaining. It whisked you right along in a between-the-wars Egypt that never was, and had a great mix of adventure and goofy good humor. He was a good choice to try and adapt this material for the screen with its mix of thriller, supernatural, and somewhat farcical elements. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get the tone right and the film lurches from set-piece to set-piece, never quite sure what it’s supposed to be. The narrative moves, the performances are reasonably good but the mix of the various types of genre never gels. I have a feeling that this is at least in part due to budgetary constraints and, if Sommers had had time and money, he could have fixed some of the problems with reshoots and post production. However, the project was plagued with financial woes leading to stopping and starting of the shooting schedule. This was followed by a nasty legal battle which prevented the completed film from getting any sort of proper theatrical release.
Anton Yelchin gives a reasonable performance in the central role. He catches the wry mix of youthful naiveté and world weariness that the part calls for. Odd has seen too much pain at a young age because of his supernatural abilities and this disconnects him from most of life other than his few trusted confidants. The supporting cast, especially old pros Dafoe and Helmsley do solid work and even Arnold Vosloo, Sommers’ mummy, turns up in a small role. Miss Timlin, as Odd’s romantic interest, is serviceable but brings nothing new to her role and I can’t say that I remembered a thing about her five minutes after the film ended.
Most of the budget seems to have gone to effects shots featuring swarms of bodachs and that creates issues as we move from well-planned effects to some sequences that seem lifted from a mid-1990s Hal Hartley movie. The final denouement, when everything converges on the local mall, is especially cringeworthy as there’s not enough extras, not enough action, and some rather dubious editing to try and disguise the facts. Maybe a few less bodachs and a few more interesting people to watch might have made an improvement. The on the cheap film making in New Mexico trying to pass for California also hurts the film. There is a certain feel and style to the Central Valley and desert towns of California and this film misses it completely. It’s sort of like all those films which are supposed to take place in Seattle but which are shot in British Columbia. It just doesn’t look and feel right.
All in all, I ended up enjoying the movie, but was not overly engrossed by it. If you’re a Koontz fan, by all means seek it out. Otherwise, it’s a reasonable thing to put on in the background on laundry day.
Ice cream philosophizing. Cut out Elvises. Church picnics. Interrupted date night. Gratuitous abandoned prison restaurant. Satanic tattoos. Foot chases. Truck chases. Bittersweet ending.
Originally from Seattle Washington, land of mist, coffee and flying salmon, Mrs. Norman Maine sprang to life, full grown like Athena, from Andy’s head during a difficult period of life shortly after his relocation to Alabama.