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Extra Ordinary
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by Peter Sobczynski

"When Irish Eyes Are Shrieking"
4 stars

When I sat down in the screening room to watch “Extra Ordinary,” I must confess that I knew precious little about it other than the fact that it was from Ireland, it was a comedy having to do with the supernatural and that the only member of the cast who was instantly familiar to me was Will Forte. As a result, I cannot honestly say that I went into it with any expectations to speak off and I was thereby a little blindsided to discover just how good it really is. This is a cheerfully silly romp from start to finish that deftly combines broadly outrageous gags and situations and situations with quieter, but no less amusing, character-based comedy. Yes, I know that everyone is anticipating, either eagerly or warily, the new “Ghostbusters” movie but if there is a competition for the title of Best Horror-Themed Comedy of 2020, this film has already set a pretty high bar for that particular prize.

Our heroine is Rose (Maeve Higgins), a seemingly ordinary driving instructor in a small Irish town who nevertheless is harboring a surprising secret in that she is able to see and make contact with members of the spirit world. As a child, she used her abilities to help her father (Risteard Cooper), the host of a cheesy television show studying various aspects of paranormal phenomena until a tragic event caused her to give up using her abilities. Her gifts are not exactly a state secret and the voice mail for her driving school tends to be dominated with people asking for her help with ghosts. Although she generally refuses to respond to such queries, she eventually agrees to look into the case of Martin (Barry Ward), a widower attempting to raise his teenaged daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman), while being haunted and occasionally abused by the ghost of his late wife, Bonnie, with whom he is able to communicate . At first, Rose is reticent to use her powers but Martin is such a nice guy that she feels compelled to help him.

Meanwhile, in another part of town resides Christian Winter (Forte), an American pop star who resides in a lavish manor with his spectacularly awful and self-absorbed wife, Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty), as a tax exile. Actually, his music career has amounted to one massive hit song long ago and absolutely nothing since them. In order to get another long-denied taste of chart success, Christian has literally signed a deal with the Devil, pledging his soul in exchange for a second hit. Alas, the ceremony inevitably requires a virgin sacrifice for it to work and when the previously procured virgin becomes ineligible, Christian grabs his magical talisman—essentially a cross between a divining rod and. . . uh, you’ll figure it out when you see it—and goes looking for a new sacrifice. This leads him to Sarah, whom he puts in a trance in preparation for the ceremony the next night and forces Rose to pull herself together in order to stop Christian and save Sarah before things become apocalyptic, even by Irish standards.

Although combining humor and the paranormal is nothing new, “Extra Ordinary” goes about it in ways that prove to be both very funny and surprisingly charming, especially for a film that includes virgin sacrifices, severed body parts and a profuse amount of vomiting. Although most reviews will probably compare this film to “Ghostbusters”—and not without reason—I found myself being reminded more of the equally inspired horror-comedy hybrid “Shaun of the Dead.” That film, you will recall, had plenty of wild comic set pieces involving broad jokes and splatter special effects but at the same time, it also had a lot of quirky character-based humor of display as well—so much so, in fact, that the entire zombie aspect of the narrative could have been removed and they could have still supplied an amusing and interesting center to the remaining film. That is the case here as well. Again, the big comedic setpeices are funny enough—with a frantic climax that has to be seen to be believed—but what really helps to put the film over are the characters. Rose, for example, is a genuinely sweet and likably quirky presence throughout and when she and Martin cross paths, they make for such an appealing couple that you can’t help but root for them to succeed. As for Christian, he is evil and self-centered, to be sure, but his ultimate goals are so petty that it is hard not to have a little affection for him in the same way that one might empathize with Daffy Duck in his greediest moments. The only truly awful character on display—not counting Satan and his minions, of course—is Christian’s astoundingly self-absorbed wife, the kind of woman who not only order take-out food during a satanic ritual but complains about her order at length to the delivery guy and makes him come back with different food. However, her awfulness is so over-the-top—even Christian cannot believe her at times—that even she becomes strangely endearing.

Directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, who also contributed to the screenplay, “Extra Ordinary” keeps zinging along and even at the odd pints where a joke doesn’t hit (there is one big punchline towards the end that can be seen coming from about 20 minutes into the film), most people will likely be too busy smiling and chuckling over the previous gags to notice any sort of lull. The screenplay is inspired, the performances are strong and funny across the board (Higgins is a real find as Rose and Forte pretty much steals his every scene with a clear-eyed stupidity that makes him hilarious even at his most monstrous moments) and the visual effects, while perhaps not quite state of the art, are silly enough to keep the goofball spirit of the enterprise without bogging things down under a ton of forgettable CGI effects. The title may be “Extra Ordinary”—it gets explained at the end—but I can assure you that the film is anything but that.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=32763&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/13/20 02:39:14
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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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