‘I Am Number Four’: Lifeless sci-fi for the ‘Twilight’ crowd

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, February 18, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

The aliens are among us again in “I Am Number Four,” although in this movie there aren’t many of them. Nine super-special extra-terrestrials made it to Earth, and three of those have already been killed off by their galactic enemies.

Naturally, the fourth alien (please refer to title) is worried. Because if he knows anything, he knows that those enemies are very keen on proper numerical order, and his number is, as they say, up. Why the bad guys couldn’t improvise and hunt down No. 6 or No. 8 is not explored here, and is perhaps beyond the reach of our puny human understanding.

Number four is a buff teenager named John Smith — at least that’s what his otherworldly guardian (Timothy Olyphant) calls him at the moment. John is played by Alex Pettyfer, whose looks would make him a dead-cert future star if he had a little more charisma.

If the business of setting up at a new high school, feeling the weight of supernatural powers, and reluctant romance all seem familiar, it’s probably because the success of the “Twilight” franchise has not been lost on anybody involved with this movie.

That includes fraudulent memoirist James Frey (whose bestselling “A Million Little Pieces” was found to be laced with fiction), the co-author of the book “I Am Number Four” is based on. Future installments in the series are forthcoming.

Or so they promise. We’ll see about that, given the mechanical nature of the movie, which rarely comes to life and hits only the most generic plot complications.

The characters are stock: John’s smart ‘n’ cute girlfriend (Dianna Agron, from the “Glee” world), a sci-fi nerd sidekick (Callan McAuliffe), the school bully/star quarterback (Jake Abel). They roll out as though someone had assembled them from the Acme Do-It-Yourself young-adult novel kit.

About halfway through the movie, “Disturbia” director D.J. Caruso shifts into action-movie mode, as though remembering his responsibility to keep the audience awake. Some large special-effects monsters ensue, and the gill-breathing alien baddies skulk around making ill-timed speeches — wouldn’t you know these intergalactic terrorists, like many a James Bond villain before them, would be unable to resist delivering bad-movie dialogue instead of simply achieving their goals of world domination?

Caruso tries to inject humor in the latter part of the film, to no avail.

It’s all just too prefabricated. Whatever you think of the merit of the “Twilight” phenomenon, at least it feels like the imaginings of an author, however daffy her ideas might be. “I Am Number Four” carries all the authenticity of a corporate boardroom.

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