2020, R, 93 min. Directed by Mike Ahern, Edna Loughman. Starring Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Emma Coleman, Claudia O’Doherty, Risteárd Cooper, Carrie Crowley, Terri Chandler, Mary McEvoy.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., March 6, 2020
This cluttered Irish farce is more than just a wee bit bonkers, stuffed with enough nutty paranormal activity to cast out a few spirits and latch the gate to hell until the next foolish human being attempts to open it again. Conjure up playwright Noël Coward scrambling The Exorcist, Hellraiser, and Ghostbusters into his 1941 psychic stage comedy Blithe Spirit and you might half-imagine what Extra Ordinary tastes like. It’s a scrummy omelette of a movie, a dish that’s off the menu. The ingredients are unorthodox, but they come together in an uproarious way. As a Dubliner would say, it’s absolute gas.
The film’s storylines seemingly go in 10 different directions, only to preposterously converge in defiance of all the postulates of Euclidian geometry. First, there’s exasperated widower Martin Martin (Ward), an average fella being haunted day and night by a dead wife still running the household from beyond the grave – sending otherworldly messages reminding him to pay the annual automobile tax or take the butt-dragging family dog to the vet. Who you gonna call? The village’s retired medium, Rose Dooley (Higgins), of course, who Martin’s concerned teenage daughter Sarah (Coleman) enlists to convince the ill-tempered ghost to complete her journey to the afterlife for the sake of everyone’s sanity. But the dithery Rose – now self-employed as a driving instructor – initially hesitates to provide any preternatural assistance to the beleaguered Martins, given an unfortunate occult-related incident in her past. She reluctantly relents upon developing a crush on an unsuspecting Martin, despite his spectral spouse’s insane jealousy. Meanwhile, aging one-hit-wonder expat Christian Winter (Forte), who lives in a nearby castle(!), dabbles in the black arts to make a deal with the Devil that will resuscitate his long-dormant pop music career. The pact requires levitating a spellbound Sarah in preparation of a virginal sacrifice to be performed during the upcoming blood moon. Whew! Get all of that? Fortunately, the script reiterates these wacky narrative details, so you eventually understand where this sublimely silly movie is heading. But none of that can prepare you for the bang-up finale at the portal to Satan’s residence, a conclusion so spectacularly cracked you may lose control of your bladder if you’re not careful.
As Rose, stand-up comic Higgins charms like Olivia Coleman on an awards-show telecast, while channeling a bit of the great Dame Margaret Rutherford, who originated Coward’s clairvoyant Madame Arcati on London’s West End almost eight decades ago. She’s a hoot. At first, Ward appears relegated to the role of straight man, only to bust out with hilarious vigor once poor Martin begins vomiting spectral ectoplasm over and over as part of a counter-spell. (His embodiment of the dead wife’s mean-spirited spirit, cigarette dangling from his mouth as if it were permanently glued to his lower lip, is equally brilliant.) As for the strangely accented Forte – who knows what the feck he’s up to here. Wearing a hairpiece inspired by a sophomore-year photograph in a 1977 highschool yearbook, the ex-SNLer either hasn’t a clue what he’s doing or he’s the smartest kid in the class. Whatever the case, he and everyone else make the utterly unusual Extra Ordinary something special.
Read our interview with star Maeve Higgins about ghosts, podcasting, and the importance of being silly at austinchronicle.com/screens.
Extra Ordinary is currently available through Kino Lorber's initiative whereby streaming "tickets" can be bought through virtual ticket booths for local arthouse cinemas. Choose from:
• Alamo Drafthouse (tickets here)
• Violet Crown Cinema (tickets here)