MOVIE OF THE WEEK (2/19/11): I AM NUMBER FOUR
Credit: John Bramley. / © DreamWorks II Distribution Co., All Rights Reserved.
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand, Jake Abel and Teresa Palmer
WRITER: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon (screenplay); Jobie Hughes and James Frey (as Pittacus Lore, novel)
DIRECTOR: D.J. Caruso
WEB SITE: http://www.findnumberfour.com
THE PLOT: Based on what Wikipedia labels as the "young adult science fiction" novel of the same name, I Am Number Four stars English actor/model Alex Pettyfer (Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker) as "John Smith," a muscular, blond, affable teenager living with his "father," Henri (Timothy Olyphant). There's just one thing - "John Smith" isn't his real name and Henri isn't his father.
You see, John is from a distant planet known as Lorien and Henri is his guardian. (Stay with me here ...) Lorien was overrun by another group of tattooed-headed, gills and nose-having aliens known as the Mogadorians. The Mogadorians basically ran a Dark Side-like empire over the Loriens ... Except for the nine special Loriens who escaped to earth with guardians. You see, the special nine Loriens were saved for a "higher purpose," which is why they need to fly under the radar as much as possible on earth and learn to control their "legacies" (i.e. the powers they were given from their parents) so they can survive.
But the Mogadorians' leader (Kevin Durand) has already hunted down the first three special Loriens ... And John Smith is number four.
Now moving with Henri from Santa Fe to the ironically-but-not-intentionally named Paradise, Ohio - the heart of it all! - John finds it hard to fly under the radar. After all, he is a teenager, so he wants to socialize with other teens at school ... Be it the nerdy Sam (Callan McAuliffe) - whose father researched aliens for much of his youth. jock star Mark (Jake Abel) ... or Sara (Dianna Agron), a photography-loving senior with whom he is smitten.
The Mogadorians, however, are smitten with one thing and one thing only: Killing him and taking over his newfound home on earth.
THE TAKE: "Twilight ... For sci-fi nerdy teen guys or all those looking to replace Harry Potter" ... That's literally the first thing that came to mind about half way through I Am Number Four, which is one of those films that has some good qualities and some really not so great ones.
Whether or not the negatives are greater than the negatives will largely affect how much you find I Am Number Four enjoyable ... Or how close you you find it to being a number two in terms of its quality as a feature film.
Here's what enjoyable about the movie: Pettyfer does the best he has with the material he has; think of Channing Tatum with more emotional range, although neither one seems to know how to convincingly cry on camera. That notwithstanding, he adds more depth to his character or at least more so than is found in most movies of this nature. Argon likewise does the same with her character, which gives her relationship with Pettyfer more of an authentic feel and avoids making her a stereotypical pretty-girl-in-a-teen-movie archetype. Last but certainly not least, the special effects are pretty enthralling (if not loud), which actually might be one of the few films that might have been enhanced by being in 3D, especially the film's Jurassic Park homage. (Don't give the film's producers any ideas, please.)
Where the movie lacks depth, however, is in its story (I'm not even going to get into all the various plot holes/scenes that make you beg questions the producers should have realized people would ask), non-corny side characters (besides Pettyfer and Argon, the rest of the cast isn't exactly that stellar ... Teresa Palmer, I'm looking at YOU! Megan Fox already has enough flaws; don't do a bad imitation, thank you.).
SIDE NOTE: It's nice to know that life on other planets consists only of beautiful, blond white people with perfect hair, sassy one-liners and the bad guys are just evil for the sake of being evil. OK, now back to the review.
The film's biggest flaw is perhaps its overt attempts to HEAVILY cater to a teenage audience in its execution. Quick cuts, jumping around plot points; it doesn't work as well as it could. Instead, what you're left with is a bit of a haphazard flick that tries to be too many things (a sci-fi superhero story, a teen romance, a coming of age story) to too many people.
PARTING SHOT:I Am Number Four doesn't deserve to be the number one movie this weekend ... And unless you are a huge fan of the book, it shouldn't be your first choice to see, either.
RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):