Directed by D.J. Caruso, Written by Alfred Gough, Marti Noxon, Miles Millar (screenplay), and Jobie Hughes and James Frey (Novel), 110-minutes, Rated PG-13.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
For all it's apparent problems, "I Am Number Four" is just stupid enough to work. The bad guys carry enough nasty energy to make siding with good guys easy, and Number Four and co. appear perplexed enough to make following them worthwhile. In between, there are enough explosions, stunts and B-Picture fun to make the hour-and-fifty minutes breeze by.
Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) is one of the few survivors of his distant alien planet. He came to Earth with his protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) in search of others like him. However, Number Four stands out like a sore thumb.
Under the obvious pseudonym John Smith, Four goes to high school for a sense of normalcy, but like all other sixteen-year-olds, his body is changing. He notice girls for the first time and has a newfound interest in his hands, which hold magical powers that he cannot contain.
"I am Number Four" works in the most superficial ways. Its story, which mostly relies on cliches of teen and sci-fi movies, runs dry quick. Caruso compensates by turning up the action and effects. The CGI effects and fight choreography impress enough to hold anyone's attention, even when the characters do not.
Pettyfer plays dumb for much of the movie, remaining quiet and out of the way. His disturbed, alienated (yuck, yuck) teenager never really gets a rounded characterization. Four circumvents the training process of his powers by abruptly changing without a real lesson. Rather than learning about his new abilities, like, say, Luke Skywalker, Four simply has them like Anakin -- his character yearns for more.
The peripheral characters have a ball, however. Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Durand, who plays the lead villain, play off the lackluster scripting with charisma. They embellish to great effect -- a strong opposition to the teenage casts' underplaying of everything.
Their experience gives them credence to have fun with the material, because they understand that's the only thing that's going to make "I Am Number Four" work. D.J. Caruso may have aspired to go beyond B-Movie sci-fi, but the film plays much better inside it. For all its mindlessness, "I am Number Four" is pretty fun--and sometimes that's all that matters.