Mark Reviews Movies

I AM NUMBER FOUR

1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: D.J. Caruso

Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Teresa Palmer, Kevin Durand, Jake Abel

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language)

Running Time: 1:44

Release Date: 2/18/11


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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 17, 2011

The following statement will fly in the face of the very concept of logic, but I Am Number Four actually begins to make sense as it becomes more and more incomprehensible. Let's face facts: Flashlight hands are not a particularly useful superpower, unless, of course, you're without a flashlight or your cell phone battery is dead.

That's only one of our hero's many "legacies" or preternatural abilities, which also include telekinesis (maybe—whatever it is he can manipulate matter somehow), super-strength, and the ability to go from one place to another by doing many unnecessary flips, skips, and jumps. These are only the ones we see him do, without explanation except that he possesses powers and can but really shouldn't use them unless absolutely necessary—like when he more than likely breaks the neck and spine of a bully by viciously hurtling him down a succession of tree branches. Our hero isn't quite keen on the idea of keeping a low profile, despite the fact that his life and the lives of the few people he cares about depend upon it.

Details are not important to the movie, either because screenwriters Alfred Gough, Miles Millar (these first two responsible for "Smallville" and clearly not ready to move past that comfort zone), and Marti Noxon have skimped on the ones from the first installment of a planned six-part series of books by Jobie Hughes and James Fry (together aka, Pittacus Lore) or because the authors are holding off on certain things until later in the franchise (or, a distinct third possibility, are making things up as they go). Whatever the case, this is a movie about a high-school kid with powers we know little about, a romance established with trite phrases, and a best friend whose dad may or may not have been abducted by aliens but wants to believe the truth is out there.

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), our hero, knows a lot about aliens because he is one from the planet Lorien, which was destroyed years ago by the Mogadorians, a snakelike bunch of aliens with skull tattoos and gills (and nostrils, because why not?) affectionately called "the Mogs," who are now on Earth hunting down the surviving children of that planet, who were sent here by their parents to keep the race alive but are now being hunted down in order by their ancestral destroyers. This is all related to us in voice-over, as John and his protector Henry-but-spelled-Henri-because-he's-an-alien (Timothy Olyphant) move after the third child of Lorient is killed.

What's left out is what order the surviving children are actually in (Is it alphabetical or based on their age—the order in which they landed on Earth or some kind of random number generator the Mogs use?) and why their enemies kill them in whatever order they've been assigned in the first place. Is it out of necessity—will their plan fail if they don't—or are they like Douglas Adams' bureaucratic Vogons? If the latter is the case, do they write poetry?

I cannot answer these questions for you, and you would be better off not asking them. The Mogs are vaguely threatening in that we're aware they do indeed kill the surviving Loriens but less so in the way they consider wearing hooded sweatshirts as a disguise while shopping in a grocery store for turkeys to feed their pets yet take them off in plain sight after getting into the car. Also, they sound sillier than they look.

While hiding out in Paradise, Ohio, John meets two friends and one enemy. There's Sarah (Dianna Agron), an amateur photographer whose response to John's "I can't stop thinking about you," is a heartfelt "I can't stop thinking about you, too." There's also Sam (Callan McAuliffe), the kid whose father disappeared into Mexico and has a sub-basement of his old factory full of strange designs and a glowing rock that matches the blue of Henri's glowing dagger. Mark (Jake Abel) is the not-too menacing school bully who once dated Sarah. There's a Beagle, too, that used to be a lizard (shape-shifting suggested by a grip shaking a bush).

No one appears much interested in being in the movie, and director D.J. Caruso holds off on infusing any life in I Am Number Four until its patently absurd, unintelligible light-show of a climactic showdown. Giant, ferocious lizards that look like flying squirrels, blue and red flashes of explosive energy, bodies flying up and down and left and right, and a Chimera to boot wreak havoc on the high school. Just when it starts to get into the territory of jaw-droppingly stupid fun, it's over.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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