(I will discuss book differences after, and hopefully leave out spoilers)
First off I will say this: When I review a movie made from a book, I pretend as much as possible that I have not read the book; what works on film does not always work in a book and vice versa.
This comment will make a lot of you stop reading right now: I liked Constantine with Keanue Reeves.
I also loved the comic book errr ahem... the "graphic novel". I loved them for different reasons and look at the comics against the movie as parallel universes.
We have many different versions of Batman, and with a few exceptions (Joel, I'm talking to you), they are all good in their own way. Adam West was a great comic book Batman. Michael Keaton was perfect for the slightly ominous/off-kilter Batman. Christian Bale captured the verve and physicality. Val Kilmer brought a vacuous quality.
The point I am making is that we can still love the books, or the movies, separately. The reasons for hating a movie should be due to it's lack of certain criteria: lack of character arc, lack of plot progression/plot holes, and cheating (when things just MAGICALLY turn out alright).
So, on to Odd Thomas, the movie.
The movie sets up the rules pretty quickly, and gets through a lot of "you-need-to-know" information very quickly. Rules like Odd (Anton Yelchin) can see dead people, and that they don't speak. He has "psychic magnetism". Explanations of why his name is "Odd". Friends, allies, love interests, why he works as a short order cook are all presented humorously and quickly. At times it felt too frenetic, but it also helped for comic timing and for the creep factor.
See, Pico Mundo, where Odd and his girlfriends story takes place, is become over-run with quasi-spiritual creatures that only show up when really bad things are about to happen.
So when we see Snarling-Creep-Monster (called Bodachs) for the first time, it's actually unsettling.
That's the setup, pretty much. Supernatural powered kid sees bad things about to happen and is compelled to stop it.
Despite a few CGI hiccups and the occasional action movie cliches that I've simply come to expect as mandatory for any film (I'm talking to you, arbitrary Jeep backing up in the alley!), the film moves along nicely. It's kooky and creepy, and even though I knew how the movie was going to end, it still struck me emotionally.
Yes. I cried at a movie.
I do recommend seeing it if you haven't read the book. It was similar to Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and it is something I could watch again, simply because the actors really do a decent job of making the incredulous seem believable. Watch the movie, then read the book. Reading the book will flesh out a lot of stuff.
If you have read the books, I suggest to not watch this movie.
(People who haven't read the book, go away. Spoilers and monsters be here.)
A LOT of lip service is done in this movie. It's like they talked to the fans and then threw in 3 second bits that referenced the book.
Here's a brief list of things I felt were not faithful to the book that were changed arbitrarily:
Chief Porter is played by Willem DaFoe. Dafoe is a great actor, no doubt. But he is not the good natured legal protector of Odd that is needed for this role. Sure, he pulled off being caring, but Porter was a surrogate father to Odd and a steel claw in a velvet glove.
Ozzy Boone is played by Patton Oswald. He is too short and not "robust" enough to portray the detective writer that has virtually shut himself into his clean house and is eating himself to death. Also, his role felt very Deus Ex Machina; "Hey Odd, no intro to who I am, but here's the important item you'll need later for convenience. Quick funny line, bye!" This actually pissed me off because Patton could have done a great job, and instead is relegated to "here you go fans of the books. That ought to satisfy you."
Elvis is not in the movie. A cardboard cutout is, in another lip service moment. His character was part of Odd's emotional center, second only to Stormy. He was the pantomiming guardian angel that showed that not all ghosts wanted something from Odd, and the cheerleader he needed when he felt nihilistic. If they were going to cut anything they should have cut Tom Jedd (Played by Sommers colab Arnold Vosloo of The Mummy fame), and his missing arm gags.
Underdeveloped Stormy character. In the book she is kind of a no nonsense girl who takes her career goals seriously, which is charming in its way. I also imagined her to be less Caucasian.
Fungus-Man is great.
Odd is great, though different visually from what I imagined, and that's fine.
Then there were story elements that could have been solved with simple throw-away lines that would have prevented the audience from doing a "what the hell?" reaction. Parts like when Odd and Stormy have a picnic on top of the church belfry. For those that have not read the book, it makes no sense that they be there. It could have been solved with a simple "Hey, is your Uncle okay with us being up here?" with Stormy answering something like "Father Llewellyn would think we are trying to get closer to god." Or some other line.
Another easy space that could have been used was when Odd is in the mall and shits about to go down, with Bodachs swarming all over the place. Odd could have narrated "Stormy thinks that the Bodachs are demons and thrive on our negative emotions. I think they are travelers from a distant future who come back to witness all the horror that lead to the demise of our culture". Simple. It gives a sci-fi twist to the movie and keeps those who think ghosties are b.s. involved.
There are a lot of issues with this film. Stormy dissolving into butterflies was so lame it pulled me out of the movie and stopped me from caring about Odd for a moment. Little tidbits from the book that I loved and gave personality to the story got left out, such as his relationship with his boss, his father, his mother and Odd's fear of guns.
That actually pissed me off the most. In the book, Odd goes to his mother, who holds a gun to her chest and emotionally abuses him. This leads Odd to realize that his fear of guns and gun related injury prevented him from seeing a very important clue.
What worked about the book was that Odd's spiritual side put him in the right direction, but good old fashioned detective work propelled Odd through the story.
I liked the movie, and don't think it deserved the negative reviews it got. That said, I hate it as an adaptation because it left out core elements that made Odd Thomas special.
I give it two and a half Bodachs out of five.