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Review: DJ Caruso's I Am Number Four (2011)

DJ Caruso's I Am Number Four (2011)
02.18.2011by: Chris Bumbray
4 10

PLOT: John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is the fourth survivor of an alien race, called the Lorians, who, as children, escaped a massacre brought on by an evil alien race called the Mogadorians, and have taken refuge on Earth. Of the nine survivors, three have so far been killed, and John is next on the Mogadorian hit list. Along with his warrior protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), John takes refuge in a small town, where he falls for a local beauty, Sarah (Dianna Agron) and tries to lead a normal life- all the while the Mogodorians, led by their blood-thirsty Commander (Kevin Durand) close in on their prey.

REVIEW: I AM NUMBER FOUR has to be one of the most cynically packaged blockbusters I've seen in a long time. I AM NUMBER FOUR is based on a book by the so-called “Pittaccus Lore”, a pseudonym for A MILLION LITTLE PIECES scribe James Frey, and Jobie Hughes. NUMBER FOUR was the inaugural book in Frey's 'Full Fathom Five' publishing company- a company whose mission statement is apparently to duplicate the success of the TWILIGHT franchise, by starting a whole slew of young adult sci-fi series, in the hopes that one of them hits and makes everyone a boatful of money.

Of course, film versions are bound to follow, and I AM NUMBER FOUR is the first. When I say it's a cynically packaged film, I say this because it's all too apparent that the only goal anyone had in mind with this film was to make a lot of $$$$. It's slick, Disney product, and the filmmakers have filled it to the brim with every ingredient they think will make this into another TWILIGHT. It's got a good-looking, heartthrob lead in Pettyfer, an “oh-so hip”, Pitchfork approved indie soundtrack, a chaste teen romance, a convoluted fantasy mythology, and most importantly, a good dose of sci-fi action to bring in the male audiences. Oh yeah, there's also a cute puppy that gets endangered enough to bring out a few “awwww's” from time to time.

Sound like fun? Well, it's not. The reason it isn't is that for all it's bombast, and slickness, there isn't a single thread of originality. Say what you will about the TWILIGHT franchise; anyone who's ready my reviews of that series can plainly see that I'm not a fan. But, at least TWILIGHT has a voice in Stephanie Meyer (for better or worse). I AM NUMBER FOUR has no voice, as the people behind it don't give a damn whether or not they're telling a good story, as their only goal is to make money. That greedy, transparent vibe carries over to the film version.

There's just nothing even remotely interesting going on here. Basically, they've taken TWILIGHT, a bit of THE TERMINATOR, and some STARMAN, thrown it into a blender, and called the result I AM NUMBER FOUR. It seems like no effort whatsoever has been made to distinguish the film from any other shitty genre film that we've been bombarded with over the last few years, with the filmmakers obviously thinking, “if it worked for TWILIGHT, it'll work for us”.

There's so much wrong with I AM NUMBER FOUR, I barely know where to begin. For one thing, the dialogue in the film is atrocious- especially when delivered by Timothy Olyphant, who's normally a solid actor, but seems embarrassed here. When he says “Lorians love forever”, the audience I saw this with burst into hysterics. I honestly have no idea what possessed Olyphant (other than a paycheck) to act in this “film”, as he gets virtually nothing to do, except deliver a lot of dopey exposition about “Lorians” and “Mogodorians” while trying to keep a straight face. I consider myself an Olyphant fan (he's terrific on JUSTIFIED), but it's clear the guy does not suit fantasy (or at least this cheesy kind) one bit.

As for our pretty-boy hero, Alex Pettyfer- truth be told, he's not all that bad. I'm sure he'll quickly make his way onto the covers of “Teen Beat” and he's no worse than someone like Taylor Lautner, or Robert Pattinson. For a twenty-year old actor headlining his first film, he acquits himself well- but he's done no favours by the ludicrous premise and constant stream of mind-numbing dialogue he has to sprout. Dianna Argon, from GLEE, makes a cute (and chaste) love interest, but their's no heat whatsoever between the two, although I suppose that's the point, as no one in TWILIGHT ever had any chemistry either.

I AM NUMBER FOUR runs under two hours, but I defy anyone watching this not to be looking at their watch every ten minutes wondering when this is going to come to a merciful end. For the first ninety minutes, I really wanted to be anywhere else. The only thing that keeps it from being a total disaster is the last twenty minutes, when we FINALLY get a few good action scenes. The climax, featuring a scene-stealing turn by Aussie-Goddess Teresa Palmer (complete with a shamelessly cheesy “walking away from an explosion shot), is actually fun. I've got to give director D.J Caruso credit, between this and EAGLE EYE, he's shown that he can direct the hell out of a good action sequence. However, twenty minutes of fun does not excuse ninety-minutes of agony. If some effort had been made to give the rest of NUMBER FOUR the kind of energy the last twenty minutes had, it might have excused the complete lack of originality.

I really hate writing these kind of super-negative reviews. I feel like I've been writing a lot of them lately, but I assure you, I do not walk into a film like I AM NUMBER FOUR wanting to hate it. I really hoped it would be a fun ride, like Caruso's EAGLE EYE or DISTURBIA (although THE SALTON SEA remains his only truly good film), but, other than some cool action towards the end, it was not fun in the slightest. If you want to see TWILIGHT all-over again, albeit with aliens, than by all means, see I AM NUMBER FOUR. If, like me, you like even the tiniest shred of originality in your films, than skip this entirely. Don't reward Hollywood with your hard earned dollars to see a soulless retread, which, in the end, is all this movie really is.



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