Ghostly comedies come in all shapes and sizes from the blockbuster-sized Ghostbusters (1984) to the under-appreciated The Frighteners (1994), but the best always seem to share the common trait of pairing their supernatural shenanigans with engaging and likable characters. The latest to join their ranks lacks much in the way of big-name cachet behind the camera, but that doesn’t stop Extra Ordinary from being a sweet, funny, and terrifically idiosyncratic gem.
Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) is a driving instructor in a small Irish town with a pregnant sister and a dead father. The former is her best friend despite the guilt Rose feels over having murdered their dad. It’s complicated, and it involves a haunted pothole, but the grief caused by that childhood incident turned Rose away from her gifts as a medium capable of communicating with ghosts. She’s called back to her former career, though, when a man (Barry Ward) she fancies begs and pleads for her help. Martin’s daughter has been targeted by a visiting American musician (Will Forte) for an unholy composition, and Rose is the only driving instructor in town capable of saving her.
Writers/directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman probably didn’t strike a deal with the devil in exchange for one hell of a debut feature, but it’s a gift for fans of hilarious supernatural comedies either way. Extra Ordinary is impossibly sweet for a film featuring death, exploding virgins, crass sidekicks, and an excessive amount of orally dispensed ectoplasm. (Don’t ask.) It also might just be the best supernatural comedy since What We Do in the Shadows (2014).
The script is low-key brilliance with jokes coming fast and frequent — often with little time to recover before the next offhand comment or priceless exasperation by Forte — but the secret weapon of the film is Higgins. She’s spent the last decade making a handful of appearances in shows and movies before landing her debut in a lead role (as well as being credited with “additional writing” here too), and she helps create a wonderfully atypical protagonist in the lovelorn and insecure Rose. Her comedic timing and delivery are on the nose, and she’s equally capable of making viewers recognize her humanity amid the laughs, gags, and flying fluids.
Forte is as reliable as ever playing the rare “bad guy” role, and his character’s blend of insincerity, evil intent, and incessant whining is a joy to behold. Ward is also quite good with a role that asks some nasty things of him when he’s not busy opening himself up to possession. Claudia O’Doherty, meanwhile, brings a ridiculous amount of laughs despite her minimal screen time, and she manages the rare feat of delivering an absolute nightmare of a character whose presence we can’t bear to leave.
The story is ultimately one about forgiving yourself, finding your strength, and knowing how to parallel park, but while it’s every bit an indie film the story delivers both big laughs and some surprising supernatural shenanigans. The basics feel familiar — satanic bargains, virginal sacrifices, etc — but Ahern and Loughman find fresh and original ways to build and execute their story. The film’s car chase scene is an all-timer (although not for the usual reasons), and it all leads to a freakily fun encounter with a big bad guaranteed to leave you smiling.
Extra Ordinary brings the funny with smart dialogue and gags while maintaining some real heart in Rose’s quest for happiness and redemption despite the hellish threat rising up around her. You’ll go “aww” as often as you go “eww” during this ghostly rom-com, and that’s no small potatoes.