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I Am Number Four
May 22, 2011

I was interested in seeing this little-watched film, due out on DVD on Tuesday, because I’m a fan of the teen movie. Sometimes, good flicks don’t find their audience, and you never know what will be rediscovered on home video. I also wanted to see it because the love interest is that girl from Glee, Dianna Agron. This isn’t one of those lost treasures, though — it’s a Twilight wannabe whose young audience wasn’t dumb enough to fall for the pitch.

The confusing opening of a thriller, shot so dark I couldn’t tell what was going on, cuts to — just in case we don’t notice the contrast — a sunny beach party, full of pretty, generic, barely dressed boys and girls. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is more like the first scene. Daniel (Alex Pettyfer, playing a similar role in Beastly), passes out while flirting in the ocean with random bikini girl and awakens to plans to flee with his mentor Henri (Timothy Olyphant). Daniel, now John, gets a scar whenever one of his compatriots (numbers one, two, then three) is killed. He’s an alien genius, one of nine (now six) hiding from another race out to destroy his people.

Alex Pettyfer in I Am Number Four

Alex Pettyfer in I Am Number Four

Henri wants to keep them invisible, but John wants to go to school to avoid feeling like a prisoner. There he’s got to pretend not to have powers, so he can’t show up the bullies, and hide his glowing hands, keeping his transformation secret. Powerful metaphors, but obvious ones. His new girlfriend’s family squabbles attract him, because he doesn’t have those kinds of connections. She’s a photographer, interested in someone whose pictures are automatically erased. She dreams of leaving town, he of finding a place he can stay. Opposites attract, you see. And nothing in the movie has any more depth than that.

Dianna Agron as Sarah in I Am Number Four

Dianna Agron as Sarah in I Am Number Four

The plot is familiar — although it may be more enjoyable to the younger viewer, who can identify with feeling like an outsider and hasn’t seen it before as many times — and the performances, with the exception of Olyphant, flat and interchangeable, with little motivation and less explanation. I Am Number Four is adapted from a book, but one also churned out on an assembly line, James Frey’s fiction factory that doesn’t give credit or copyright and little profit to the co-writer, Jobie Hughes. I found the film slow going, although the characters were pretty to look at, because the beats were so familiar. When it comes to Sarah, John can’t resist using his powers, so geeky friend Sam finds out his secret. Then John has to choose between love and honor, whether to stay with Sarah or follow his fate as a warrior legacy.

You would think the screenplay writers Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (Smallville) and Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) would know better, given their experience with teen superheroes. Better to watch Spider-Man again than this. Or jump ahead to the last 20 minutes, when Number Six (Teresa Palmer) takes a major role, and the butt-kicking gets serious, with CGI monsters and color-coded laser battles. With all the noise and big images, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that this was produced by Michael Bay.

Teresa Palmer as Number Six

Teresa Palmer as Number Six

In addition to the three-disc combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy) shown here ($45 suggested price), there’s a solo Blu-ray edition ($40) or standard DVD ($30). Special features are minimal:

  • “Becoming Number 6″ — 11 1/2 minutes of the Australian Teresa Palmer explaining how certain special effects and stunts were done and her character’s personality. It’s telling, I think, that none of the main role actors were used as the focus for the bonus featurette. Six is my favorite, don’t get me wrong, but her screen time is minimal, when you look at the entire movie. However, she will likely play a much more major role in the sequel, if there is one. There’s certainly one set up in the open ending.
  • A three-minute blooper reel of actors cracking up.
  • Blu-ray only: Six deleted scenes, total nineteen minutes, introduced by director D.J. Caruso. My favorite is finding out that Karen Allen was supposed to play a classmate’s mom.

I don’t know that anyone will need to own it, but a tough girl having a slumber party might enjoy the rental.

3 Responses  
Grant writes:  

great review. Sounds like there’s also elements of that tv show “Roswell” in there.

I’m not much for “teen films” although actors like Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Mary Elizabeth Winstead do have me interested in “younger” actors again like I haven’t been since probably the Brat Pack days.

 
Lyle writes:  

Wow, I wasn’t aware of the history of the book and the iffy treatment of the co-writer. That makes me want to see the film even less, and from the previews my interest was pretty low to begin with.

 
Mangaman » Manga Worth Reading writes:  

[...] of Pete Wisdom or another of that trenchcoat crowd. (It’s the same setup as the recent movie I Am Number Four.) Marissa, the love interest, was the popular homecoming queen and dated the head jock, but she [...]

 

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