Review By: Jonathan W. Hickman
Irish comedian Maeve Higgins delivers irresistible charm in the supernatural comedy “Extra Ordinary.” She reminds me of a kinder, gentler Phoebe Waller-Bridge. And in the right vehicle, Higgins could become a big deal.
In “Extra Ordinary,” she plays Rose Dooley, a hapless driving instructor by day and a ghostbuster at night. Well, she’s got the talent for ghost-busting, but she abandoned that field after the untimely death of her father. Through a series of old VHS tapes, we meet Rose’s dad (played by Risteard Cooper). Before his passing, he presented a television series devoted to ghost-busting. And whenever Rose needs words of encouragement or supernatural coaching, she pops in a tape from the library and “visits” with dad.
In the Irish town Rose inhabits, ghosts are commonplace. And the apparitions are of the common sort. A spirit might haunt a wheelie bin, a piece of gravel, or a simple object, like the cap of a ballpoint pen. These cumbersome, mundane ghosts prove to be annoying, and that’s where Rose comes in—ridding her rural community of pesky otherworldly malingerers. She’s just the woman for a good, old-fashioned exorcism, if you can convince her to do it, that is.
One day, she receives a call from a frustrated man named Martin Martin (Barry Ward). He’s a single father, whose daily routine is disrupted by the constant interference of his deceased wife. She won’t let him move on. When his daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) suggests he call Rose, he decides to appease his daughter by taking a driving lesson. But when he meets Rose, there’s a potential spark between them.
Is the promise of a relationship with Martin enough to pull Rose back into the business of ghost-busting? And will Rose be able to thwart the evil intentions of one-hit rock and roller Christian Winter (Will Forte) in the process?
It’s probably too much to describe Forte’s Christian Winter, the film’s outlandish villain, as a rock and roller. The Saturday Night alum (remember him as “MacGruber”) plays Winter as a wormy fellow, whose awful one big hit was a keyboard-driven single that feels subtly disco-like. It didn’t matter if the song was any good; it’s a hit because he made a deal with the devil. But Winter’s unholy relationship with the Prince of Darkness only took him so far. And to stage his comeback, Winter has to offer up a virgin to the red man downstairs. Only Rose can stand in his way.
“Extra Ordinary” is a self-aware horror-comedy that trades well on the best of the genre. Besides funny references to “Ghostbusters” and other influential movies, the sarcastic tone feels a part of the Edgar Wright school (like a female-led “Shaun of the Dead”). And until the closing act, the big special effects-driven horror elements are subdued, which allows the actors and simple camera tricks to project sufficient spookiness, while also delivering a constant stream of chuckles.
A cast of humorous characters populates the film. Rose’s no-nonsense sister, Sailor (Terri Chandler), is a single, pregnant hairdresser, who, despite being just about to give birth, is still on the prowl for a good man. And Winter’s crass wife, Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty), orders Chinese takeaway right in the middle of Winter’s incarnation of the Dark Lord. It’s an irreverent, charming laugh-riot.
But above all, “Extra Ordinary” might be the film that launches Maeve Higgins’ career. Sure, some may have seen her standup, and she’s been in a television series, but here, she’s the star. And similar to “Fleabag” creator Waller-Bridge, Higgins has got an expressive face, conveying so much with a simple eye-roll or a purse of the lips. It’s a casual style so quirky and amusing that it makes the whole production a delight.
Rent “Extra Ordinary” on KinoNow and proceeds will benefit Atlanta’s Plaza theater: https://kinonow.com/extra-ordinary-plaza-theatre
A RottenTomatoes.com Tomatometer-approved critic, Jonathan W. Hickman is also an entertainment lawyer, college professor, novelist, and filmmaker. He’s a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, The Southeastern Film Critics Association, and the Georgia Film Critics Association. For more information about Jonathan visit: FilmProductionLaw.com or DailyFIlmFix.com