I Am Number Four

Movie Information

The Story: Teen aliens are on the run from intergalactic killers, who, it seems, have designs on our planet as well. The Lowdown: Reasonably efficient knock-off intended to generate tween and teen heart-throbbery, but with no real identity of its own.
Genre: Derivate Sci-Fi Teen-Rom
Director: D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand
Rated: PG-13

There are worse things than I Am Number Four, yes. I saw one of them this week—Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. I might also say that Am Number Four isn’t nearly as dire as I expected it to be. I could even note that—while not being terribly expressive (two expressions don’t qualify)—star Alex Pettyfer evidenced faint glimmerings of intelligence (a first impression I expect to be crushed by his upcoming Beastly). None of this makes me recommend the film. Not finding it absolutely punishing doesn’t mean it ever passed the point of rampant mediocrity and mimicry—and it didn’t.

Basically, what you’ve got here is a Twilight movie with a better-looking leading man, a less morose leading lady, aliens instead of vampires, orphan issues, and some explosions because it was produced by Michael Bay. If that sells you on the film, then you’re likely easily pleased and will think it’s just dinky-do. It doesn’t sell me and I didn’t find it even remotely dinky-do. I do find explosions and CGI brawling something of an improvement over Robert Pattinson in “dreamy” slow-motion or endless close shots of him and Kristen Stewart staring soulfully at each other.

So exactly what do we get with this sci-fi variant? Well, let’s see. There are these refugees from the planet Loria—or L’oreal or something, it hardly matters. There are—or were—nine of them, each with some kind of guardian protector. At the film’s opening, there are only seven left, because the evil Mogadorians who destroyed all the rest of their kind are determined to get these remaining specimens. Why? That’s sort of explained before the end. Roughly, it turns out that these survivors are all that stands between the Mogadorians (who, unlike our model-looking heroes, are really ugly) and, yes, the destruction of Earth.

After the requisite exciting opening, there are only six left. Our focus is on John (Pettyfer), and his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), whose own cover is blown when John has some kind pubescent awakening that causes him to glow at the knee. (Most puberty events take place a little higher, but perhaps things are different on Loria/L’oreal/Lorna Doone/whatever.) This—and the fact that John is Number Four and next in line for the Mogadorian chop—puts them in the gravest of peril. So they take it on the lam to some burg in Ohio (there’s ultimately a reason for the locale, but chances are you won’t much care).

And it follows as the night the day that John just can’t resist trying to fit in by going to school, where he will befriend nerdy picked-upon Sam (Aussie TV actor Callan McAuliffe) and fall in teenage love with moody misfit Sarah (Dianna Agron, TV’s Glee). Of course, more alien puberty hijinks ensue, causing John to grow high-powered flashlights in the palms of his hands. (A veiled variation on an old wives’ tale?) Other problems follow. His other gifts appear. Mogadorians are on the trail. Can a big showdown be far behind?

By now you can probably conclude why I am not recommending I Am Number Four, despite the fact that I didn’t actually hate it. I might have more respect for it if I had. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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