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Extra Ordinary
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by Jay Seaver

"Genuinely sweet and funny from start to end."
4 stars

I suppose movies like "Extra Ordinary" are the domain of the streaming services now, but there should be theaters in every city that show movies like "Extra Ordinary" for relatively cheap, making it easier to experience them with an audience. It is built to be a cheap and memorable date, with plenty to make the audience smile, and even if someone somehow doesn't like it, it's just off-kilter enough to let you talk about how screwy it was.

Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) can talk to ghosts, but chooses instead to work as a driving instructor in her small Irish town, ever since the death of her father (Risteard Cooper) in an exorcism-related incident when she was younger, though they were just the level of locally famous that people still call her with their strange noises. Martin Martin (Barry Ward) has rather more than strange noises; his dead wife has been haunting him for eight years and is as pushy and, really, kind of abusive as ever; daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) says she's moving out unless he does something about it. And Christian Warner (Will Forte), an American one-hit wonder who moved to town for tax reasons years ago, is looking to make a deal with the devil to jump-start his career, but after an unfortunate incident with his wife Claudia (Claudia O'Doherty) and their planned sacrifice, he's going to need another virgin, and the omens lead him directly to the hardware store where Sarah works after school.

One of the clever things filmmakers Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman do right in the VHS-tape-exposition drop that opens the movie is to establish that, compared to a lot of supernatural comedies, the stakes are likely to be fairly low; most ghosts, we are told, can't really establish enough of a toehold in our world to be more than extremely minor nuisances. Controlling ambition can be useful for this sort of movie - it keeps the visual effects budget under control and means you don't have to work too hard to sell that all this supernatural stuff can be happening in a world we find familiar. The next step is maybe even more impressive - deciding that small doesn't necessarily mean petty. Heroes and villains alike have modest enough goals that it feels like a situation the audience can fall into.

They've also got a nifty cast portraying them. Maeve Higgins is enjoyably self-possessed as Rose, never quite detached enough to be deadpan but seeking that she's familiar with the weird, giving a different sort of nervousness to her everyday life and the fear that she'll screw up badly again. She's a fun pairing with Barry Ward, who captures Martin's uncool decency and then proves a comedic secret weapon when he undergoes multiple possessions. Will Forte often seems like the odd man out, not just for being the only American in the cast, but because his character is the sort of stupidly eccentric that feels like doing a bit while the rest are just being odd, especially in a moment when he doesn't quite fit the bit. Fortunately, Claudia O'Doherty is a delightfully abrasive, grounded contrast to him.

And they're all funny, which should go without saying but isn't always necessarily the case. Indeed, Ahern & Loughman go the extra mile, making sure something at least a little funny is going on even when they're just pushing pieces into place or dropping a little information, from Rose being an enthusiastic but weirdly roundabout storyteller to Martin casually doing some exceptional woodworking while discussing how his late wife Bonnie is kind of a problem with his daughter. It's designed to keep you chuckling throughout before ramping up to the genuinely weird (but still very goofy even as it is putting everyone in actual danger), and it's rare to see a movie that manages this so seamlessly, not having any moments where it stops being funny to take care of actual business.

It is less elaborate than other supernatural comedies, just enough that it can be a harder sale in a time when movie tickets cost nearly as much as the eventual Blu-ray release (which it might not get if it doesn't sell a few tickets). It's a tricky circle, and hopefully the film's distributors will find a way out, because they've got something genuinely sweet and funny on their hands that deserves to be part of a better date night than just sitting in the living room.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=32763&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/20/19 07:02:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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