Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Review: "I Am Number Four"
A tall, handsome loner is the center of attention at the high school in a tiny, close-knit town. The offbeat, slightly ostracized girl finds herself drawn to him, intrigued by his secretive ways.
When he reveals himself to have extraordinary physical and mental super-powers -- to indeed not even be human -- their relationship grows increasingly complicated. They must navigate the challenges of the town's cloistered social structure, her estranged former love interest who harbors a powerful jealousy, and marauding forces coming to wipe out him and his kin.
The plot of the last "Twilight" movie, right?
Nope, it's "I Am Number Four," a new movie based on the book by James Frey and Jobie Hughes (who use the combined pen name of Pittacus Lore.) Considering the young-adult novel was just published last August, I don't think I'm out of line in postulating that it was written with an eye on crossing over the teen vampire phenomenon.
True, John (Alex Pettyfer, a dead ringer for a young Ryan Phillippe) isn't looking to make a meal out of Sarah (Dianna Agron). But the dynamics and target audience of "Number Four" are a close match with Edward Cullen & Co.
It's a shallow, cynical bit of movie-making, certainly never boring but rarely engaging on either an intellectual or visceral level. The cast of mostly twentysomethings posing as teenagers does an awful lot of pouting and strutting, like mannequins brought to life and back-lit heavily.
John is a Lorien, one of nine survivors of a dead planet wiped out by the evil Mogadorians. As chance would have it, all the remaining Loriens are hot-looking teens who each have special powers. They use various names as they travel from place to place hiding out from the Mogs, but are known mainly by their numbers.
The Mogs, who must have some kind of collective OCD complex, are hunting the Loriens down in order. As the story opens, Number Three bites it, so John is next.
John and his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), have to leave their beach home when their cover is blown. John is hanging out with a girl at a beach party when his leg starts burning and glowing like a lighthouse. This being 2011, every teen at the party has a smart phone to take pictures and video, and soon John's exploits are all over the Web.
Here's where things get a little fuzzy. Henri doesn't seem to do much actual guarding but mostly spends his time cruising the Internet looking for any kind of photos or info people have posted about John, which he then wipes out so the Mogs can't use it to track them down. This, of course, ignores the fact that he's only erased the stuff from the Web site where people uploaded it, and not the actual data on their cameras, iPhones or whatever. They can just post it again somewhere else.
I know I'm picking nits here, but a movie that purports to be pseudo-science fiction ought to have at least a pseudo acquaintance with technology.
Anyway, Henri and John end up in Paradise, Ohio, and things transpire pretty much as stated. The heavy is Sarah's ex-boyfriend Mark (Jake Abel), and Callan McAulliffe plays Sam, the local undersized science nerd who quickly becomes John's wingman.
John's telekinetic powers manifest just in time to fight off Mark and his bullies, and tackle the Mogadorians when they show up. They're big trench-coated dudes with head tattoos and gill slits next to their noses, who wield massive laser rifles and keep some kind of bat/wolf/lizard beastie as a tracking pet.
Derivative and dull-witted, "I Am Number Four" appears to be gearing up for sequels, but already feels stale.
2 stars out of four