I Am Number Four is pure formula.
Take a teen hunk with heartthrob looks, surround him with equally beautiful but two-dimensional co-stars, give him a buddy, add a love story, put the hunk and his love interest in mortal danger, add a bit of action and...
Presto, you are bankable at the box office.
Sounds like Twilight, but it’s not.
Some are unfairly comparing the soon-to-be-series of I Am Number Four movies to the vegan vampire flicks. They have very little in common other than a target audience of young adults and teens and that — at least the first film — is awful.
From the Wikipedia description, I Am Number Four comes from the first book of a planned series of six. The Wikipedia synopsis describes it as “young adult science fiction” and makes it sound pretty good.
None of the Twilight books are that good, and so far the movies are disasters.
Alex Pettyfer plays the hunk. If all goes well and I Am Number Four is a monster hit, his mug will be plastered all over magazines, posters and entertainment websites and you’ll see gossip about him non-stop on tabloid TV.
Pettyfer is John Smith from the planet Lorien. John and eight other teens called the Garde are hiding on Earth with their guardians. Each of the Garde has unique powers. When the movie starts, John hasn’t discovered his yet.
Lorien was wiped out by the dark and violent Mogadorians who are on a mission to kill Smith and the other eight. And since they are here, why not do this planet in, too? No doubt that comes in the expected sequels.
We pick up John’s story after the Mogadorians murder Nos. 1, 2 and 3. When one of them dies, the Garde’s emblem is burned into the skin of the survivors. John and his guardian — nicely played by Hitman’s Timothy Olyphant — are living in Florida. He becomes an Internet sensation when someone gets film of his skin burning.
The guardian is forced to move the two of them to Paradise, Ohio.
It’s hard to be an ordinary teenager when you have super powers. But John insists on going to school, and in spite of objections from the guardian, he enrolls and meets and befriends Sam, whose dad may have been kidnapped by aliens.
John falls in love with Sarah done by Glee’s Dianna Agron. A high school bully also loves Sarah. As expected, circumstances force John to develop and use his powers. Explanations get a bit awkward.
You can take it from there.
Reviews of the book say it’s pretty good. I Am Number Four made the New York Times best seller list. The concept had enough potential to get the movie rights sold. Filming began before the book was even published.
So what happened to the movie?
While charming, the love story isn’t that special and it is predictable. The same can be said about the bits with the new best friend. The story slowly slogs along before John’s powers show up and he gets down to business. The third act is the showdown with the Mogodorians. It is effect-filled with lightning-fast edits, packed with PG-13 rated violence and — unfortunately — also predictable.
To give the producers, writers and director DJ Caruso some credit, the film’s snail’s pace is understandable. Much of the story is set-up and background for the soon-to-come sequels and what — as noted earlier — the producers hope will be Hollywood’s next big teen movie series.
To give Caruso ( Eagle Eye) and cast even more credit, somewhere in the I Am Number Four mess is a good movie. It just didn’t get made. Caruso did, however, leave the door open for improvement in the sequel. Toward the end, we get introduced to Number Six.
At least she has some energy and a sense of humor -- two big pieces missing from I Am Number Four.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It opens Friday, Feb. 18 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.