"I Am Number Four" follows the color-by-numbers formula for teen movies, and director D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia") makes sure he doesn't paint outside the lines.
"I Am Number Four" - Is it a biopic of Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr? Is it another sequel to "I Am Number Two," a thriller about a man with irritable bowel syndrome? Or is it a lame sci-fi flick about an alien teen whose extraordinary powers include extraordinary dullness?
Sadly, the answer is the latter. The film follows the color-by-numbers formula for teen movies: cast a hunk in the lead, cast a star from a popular television show as the love interest, cast a nerd, cast a jock, cast a babe as a butt-kicker, include syrupy pop songs for moody transition scenes and pile on the angst. Director D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia") makes sure he doesn't paint outside the lines.
For most of the film, the girls get to gawk at the hunk, the guys get to gawk at the babe (in brief snippets) and, to break up the tedium, both sexes get to watch violence and explosions with most of the mayhem reserved for the final scene. So if you wake up at the 100-minute mark of this 104-minute fiasco you won't miss much action.
The movie is produced by Mr. Bombast himself, Michael Bay, so the pyrotechnics do have that certain cool factor going for them. Note that most of the fights take place at night in order to better mask the computerized effects. The battle between two beasts serves as the film's highlight. That's because they have more personality than the humans.
The aforementioned hunk is John Smith (British actor Alex Pettyfer), a teenage alien on Earth he's a Lorien who is trying to blend in among humans and hide from other aliens they're Mogadorians who want to kill him. They've already killed three other Loriens and John is Number Four. The teen is now apparently the only person who has the power to defeat the Mogadorians. So if he is killed, the Mogadorians can then turn their attention on destroying Earthlings. I say "apparently" because, oh, let's just say the film has an issue with numbers. If John is not the only one, who cares if he's killed? Other than John.
Henri, (Timothy Olyphant) a Lorien warrior, is assigned to protect John and moves him from place to place to keep him from being detected. John eventually discovers that he has special gifts, including glow-in-the-dark hands. Will he be able to harness his powers in time to defeat the Mogadorians? The suspense will snap your spine.
After settling in Paradise, Ohio, John develops a crush on Sarah (Dianna Agron of "Glee" fame), a camera bug who previously dated the aforementioned jock, Mark (Jake Abel). Think Mark might object to John's growing fondness of Sarah? Then there's the aforementioned nerd, Sam (Callan McAuliffe), whom Mark and his buddies bully every chance they get. But Sam's not just around as a punching bag. His father, who has mysteriously disappeared, may know a thing or two about all this alien stuff. And don't forget the babe played by Australian actress Teresa Palmer. She blows up a house and then disappears for most of the film.
You following all this? Now I suppose this hokum could be tolerable if anyone could act or if the writing by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar ad Marti Noxon strayed from banalities. "Number Four" reaches its height of stupidity when a character who had been acting like a jerk throughout the entire movie suddenly acts like a nice guy at the end. Huh?
The film also could have spent more time on the Mogadorians and less time on the romance so that we can learn to hate them more and thus derive more pleasure when they're, well, punished. They're more fun than the Loriens anyway.
These shortcomings aren't likely to matter at the box office, however, as the film has the benefit of a pre-existing fan base since it's based on a popular novel by Pittacus Lore (the pseudonym of Jobie Hughes and James Frey).
Sci-fi fans deserve better, but considering this time period exists as the dumping ground for mediocre movies, it does rate above such crud as "The Dilemma." And if you really liked this movie, you may get more as the filmmakers have set the stage for a sequel. I wonder what it will be called. How about "Numb and Number"?
"I Am Number Four" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and some naughty language. Running time: 104 minutes.
The movie opens Friday, Feb. 18
"I Am Number Four"