I AM NUMBER FOUR
***1/2 (out of 5)
February 18, 2011
Alex Pettyfer as JOHN
Timothy Olyphant as HENRI
Teresa Palmer as NUMBER 6
Dianna Agron as SARAH
Callan McAuliffe as SAM
Kevin Durand as MOGADORIAN COMMANDER
Jake Abel as MARK
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed young adult fiction, in both book and movie form.
Yeah, I know how stupid that sounds. Kids are supposed to enjoy young adult fiction. But the reality is that it is often dismissed by literary critics and anyone who has grown out of their teenage years. And with mega-blockbuster books and movies like the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises, it’s easy to lose focus of the great stories that are out there.
What I like about young adult fiction is that it has a limited yet focused scope. It’s not trying to be pretentious (most of the time), and it’s just focused on telling a fast-paced, fun story. This is the spirit that is embodied in the new film “I Am Number Four.”
Bear with me while I get through the synopsis because taken in a vacuum, the plot of “I Am Number Four” sounds ridiculous. But trust me… it works.
John appears to be a normal teenager, but he has a secret. In reality, he’s one of nine special alien creatures that have settled on earth, each with a protector. They are on the run from the evil Mogadorians, who are trying to hunt his species to extinction. The Mogadorians have caught up with and killed the first three of John’s companions, and now they are after him. As he tries to start a new life in a new city, his desire to have a normal life puts him and his friends in jeopardy.
There are a lot of similar themes in this film that you’ll find in many examples of young adult literature. The strongest element is the desire to be a normal kid, which is something pretty much teenager can identify with. There’s also a conflicting desire to be special, which comes to light – quite literally – when John discovers new powers, including the ability to shine bright telekinetic energy from his hands.
The story feels like a work of juv fiction, with a little more cohesion and a grittier delivery than your run-of-the-mill Disney Channel Original Movie. In this respect, “I Am Number Four” feels like what Disney’s “Race to Witch Mountain” wanted to be when it couldn’t resist aiming for a younger audience.
For an action piece, “I Am Number Four” works. There’s a strong energy behind the film, and the action sequences are spaced nicely throughout the film. Along with the action, the effects are pretty slick, with plenty of explosions and destruction to excite the teenage boy in a lot of us.
The characters are decent, pretty run-of-the-mill when it comes to a piece like this. Alex Pettyfer, who is most recognizable for the title role in the mis-marketed but still fun “Alex Rider: Stormbreaker,” isn’t the greatest actor, but at least he’s got more natural ability than any of those “Twilight” kids. He’s partnered with Dianna Agron (Quinn from “Glee”), and she doesn’t do much but sit there and look pretty.
The better performances come from Timothy Olyphant, who plays John’s protector, as well as the fetching and not-at-all-Kristen-Stewart-looking Teresa Palmer, who plays another alien. Finally, Callan McAuliffe adds some decent comic relief as John’s bullied friend from school.
There’s all the plot holes you expect from a young adult story, including the forced high school setting and the yearning for independence putting the hero’s friends in danger, but these are all forgivable in this context.
In the end, I really quite enjoyed “I Am Number Four” as it reminded me of the excitement I had for such a simple film when I was a young teenager. I hope other viewers out there can find the same excitement for this fun flick.