You probably already know the work of Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman; the co writer/director team behind Extra Ordinary. You just might not realise it. Under their pseudonym D.A.D.D.Y. (Design, Animation, Design, Design Yeah!) they’ve created music videos for the likes of Jape and adverts for everyone with the sense to hire them. This is their first attempt at applying their stylised comic sensibility to a feature. The early buzz really has been extraordinary. Post SXSW the film is currently sitting pretty at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes thanks to early reviews from Vanity Fair et al.
Part of this is down to the great cast. Maeve Higgins is the lead, channelling her abundant natural charm into the typical lonely sad sack role so common in ‘quirky’ movies. Here, she’s playing Rose; a down-on-her-luck former psychic turned driving instructor with an eye on the handsome widower Martin, played by Barry Ward who clearly relishes the dumber jokes that he gets to sink his teeth into. Martin is having problems with the ghost of his ex-wife and is trying to cajole Rose into offering psychic assistance when the villain, in the form of a washed up American popstar played by Will Forte, appears on the scene with a satanic plot. It’s very silly and a lot of fun.
Seeing as it’s a twee spin on Ghostbusters in a rural Irish town but with a Napoleon Dynamite aesthetic, words like ‘oddball’, ‘kitsch’ and ‘offbeat’ are going to get used a lot. The natural comparison will also be made with Taika Waititi’s work. At times the film comes close to drowning in it’s own affectation. It leans a little too heavily on the 90’s nostalgia and showy art direction that feels more suited to a 30 second Old Spice commercial than a 90 minute movie. What’s more, the broad, cartoonish approach means that the script doesn’t know how to make us feel for these often absurd caricatures other than to have them sporadically deliver emotional monologues. The effect is one of whiplash rather than pathos and it’s a shame that they laid these mawkish moments on so thick.
None of these flaws are fatal though. Occasionally it might feel like a Halloumi-eating graphic designer fetishising their vague, childhood memory of ‘normal’ people outside the pale. The film will likely win most viewers over. This is partially down to Higgins’ aforementioned charm and partially down to Ahern and Loughman’s ability to pull of great sight gags as well as moments of gross out humour and surprising bursts of slapstick gore. For any joke that doesn’t quite land another will be along in a few moments. Ward admirably shoulders the burden of two recurring gags; one a disgusting visual, the other a full on transformation as he becomes possessed by his domineering, chain-smoking dead missus.
It’s moments like these, combined with the brisk pace and, yes, the slick visuals that make Extra Ordinary wonderfully fun when taken on balance. It also has one hell of a climax.