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Can Hollywood Treat Dean Koontz Right with 'Odd Thomas'?

By Michael Griffin, Hollywood Staff

Dean Koontz has really struck a gold mine with the character of Odd Thomas: a young out-of-work fry cook in the fictional Californian town of Pico Mundo who has the ability to see and communicate with the dead. Koontz has written seven novels starring Thomas (using the character more than any other protagonist) as well as a graphic novel. And now, Odd Thomas is setting up to hit the big screen. The film will be based the eponymous first novel to feature Odd Thomas, with Anton Yelchin playing the character and Willem Dafoe playing his friend Chief Wyatt Porter. 50 Cent is listed as a cast member too, which should make it interesting.

What makes Thomas so different from the other heroes from Koontz's books is his humility and willingness to poke fun at himself, and we're hoping this, more than anything, carries through in the film. Read any of the Odd Thomas novels and you'll pick up a definite sense of self-deprecation. He freely admits that he's just an ordinary person trying not to get killed by bad guys while he also tries to better understand his ability. This is why people have really latched onto the character and his girlfriend Stormy (though Koontz still has the trouble of picking good names for the people in his books), and it's an element that needs to be present for a screen adaptation to work.

Another favorite feature of the books: dead celebrities. In the stories, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Alfred Hitchcock show up to see if the young man can discern exactly what it is that killed them and how they can cross over to the other side. I didn't see anybody listed on the cast page for roles like that, so I'm hoping for an uncredited appearance. Not having these people show up would be as bad as leaving the gods out of Troy... and we all know how THAT went.

There have been several stabs at Koontz novels: Phantoms with Rose McGowan, Ben Affleck, and Liev Schreiber. Hideaway with Jeff Goldblum. Sole Survivor with Billy Zane. Something just seemed off with these adaptations on the big screen, though; the spirit of the novels weren't really captured. The characters in those books never seemed to leap off the page the way Thomas does. In fairness, there was a good TV movie adaptation of Intensity, which had a pre-Dr. Cox John C. McGinley as a homicidal murderer who also happened to be a police chief. But we're hoping for great with Odd Thomas.

Koontz has not had as much luck in the celluloid world as the person he's most compared to, Stephen King. It hasn't seemed to bother him as he continues to write what seems like two books or more a year. After several years in limbo thanks to dueling production companies, we'd like to see Odd Thomas really take proper form on the big screen.

Odd Thomas hits theaters on February 28.

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