Despite its world premiere at the 2019 SXSW, I entered the Irish comedy “Extra Ordinary” not knowing what to anticipate. In fact, when I first saw the teaser trailer, I thought it looked like it was in the same caliber of other British deadpan humor types of cinema. Will this type of film satisfy people that are into films like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and the work of Edgar Wright? I would put money on it. But for those who are often lukewarm about British humor as I am, I can warn let you know that this supernatural comedy is far from awful, but it offers a lot more misses than hits. The end result is a highly watchable film that thankfully never extends its welcome with its 90 mins running-time, and film is always in good nature.
Extra Ordinary is a written and directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, making it their feature film debut. The film has a comical cast that consists of Barry Ward, Maeve Higgens and Will Forte. The plot is quite simple. The film is about Martin Martin (Ward), a single father who is tormented by the ghost of his deceased wife. Once his daughter is coerced into a spell to be sacrificed, Martin seeks help from Rose (Higgens), a driving instructor who has telepathic abilities in exorcism communicating with the dead. Higgens is the real joy in the film, a kind, insecure soul: a patient and impatient driving instructor (depending on the driver) who was supernatural gifts from her paranormalist dad, who released a series of hilarious VHS guides in how to communicate with spirits. However, she accidentally killed him after an exorcism on a dog went awry. The pair set off to communicate with spirits by unlocking the spell and meeting some bizarre characters on their journey–a Satanist musician oddly named Christian Winter (Forte) is driven to finding a virgin to sacrifice to the world to regain his star status.
There were moments in “Extra Ordinary” that are amusing, including a comical gag involving practical effects of spirits always catching the attention of Rose that include tree branches waving, pens moving, among many other objects, but for the most part, the humor falls flat. One moment you will be chuckling, next laughing hard, and the next moment its eye-rolling. The strengths in the film isn’t so much the outlandish concept or witty humor, its mostly the impressive visuals and practical effects that perfectly establish the world and its story. The bed sheet goats and other inanimate objects generate the most laughter and deliver the most clever impressions.
“Extra Ordinary” is one of those self-aware horror-comedies that actually never feels pretentious or smug, all around the characters all become amusing and oddly charming. It takes a while to warm up to, but eventually it builds up comedic momentum where you can appreciate just how off-beat and wry it really is, even if not every laugh is earned. There’s pretty much always a wry line or visual gag for every minute of the running time, even when the ending plays out like a parody on William Friedkin’s classic horror film “The Exorcist.”
On a narrative level the film gets old fairly quickly. The movie plays out more like a revue than a film that consists more of amusing moments than any real purpose. You can certainly sense “Monty Python” as a huge influence here. The film’s main goal is that it wants to amuse by making the paranormal comical, so the film in a way plays out like how you would be kind by keeping someone company that is slightly amusing and likable, but you can only handle them in small doses during the course of a time.