I Am Number Four

There ought to be a law. You shouldn’t be able to slap a pretty slick, whiz-bang ending onto a bad movie and call it a day. And I’m no expert, but it can’t be a good thing when you actually find yourself amused and almost rooting for the bad guys.

But that’s what you get in I Am Number Four, the latest from director D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye). It’s perhaps not fair to boil it down as just Twilight with aliens, but that’s a pretty close comparison… though I gotta be honest, I liked Twilight (all three of them) better than this thing.

Alex Pettyfer is ‘John Smith’, an alien from some faraway planet. He’s on the run with his trusty guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) from a gaggle of bad guys from some other faraway planet. Apparently, only nine of John Smith’s species escaped the bad guys’ invasion, and the bad guys are now hunting down all nine, in order.

Now… even though this is science fiction, there still needs to be at least a small element of fact, right? Maybe a coherent backstory? And we get precious little in the way of either here.

How does John look, act, think, talk, and dress human? Why did he (and the other eight) choose Earth? Why are the bad guys jumping through so many hoops to kill these last nine survivors? Why do the survivors need to get killed in order? And why, once the nine find out the bad guys are after them, don’t they just run away to any of the other bajillion planets in the universe?

A lot of the plot here just doesn’t make any sense, and, unfortunately, the other goings-on (at least until the frenetic last half-hour) are just about as interesting as mayonnaise on white bread.

Pettyfer is just about as boring a leading man as you could find these days. Granted he’s playing an alien, but still, even aliens have feelings and emotions, one would think. Dianna Agron (Glee) is Sarah, playing the age-old role of beautiful-high-schooler-who’s-really-an-outcast-and-who-has-an-interesting-hobby (in this case, it’s photography—the old-school kind that uses real film… because it’s hip!) Sarah, of course, falls in love ‘John’ (providing the inter-species love conundrum that the Twilight saga pulled off much more believably). While she (and, yes, Pettyfer, too) was no doubt hired primarily for her good looks and because of her appeal to the film’s target crowd, she exudes more personality in five minutes as Glee’s Quinn than she does in two hours here.

Caruso, whose last two films (Eagle Eye and Disturbia) provided rock-solid entertainment from the word ‘go’, just can’t seem to get anything going in I Am Number Four. It’s not until the final act (with the arrival of the zany bad guys and a mysterious, hot, blonde woman) that things really get ramped up. By then, though, the damage has been done, and no amount of Michael Bay-inspired mayhem (he’s credited as a producer here) can save the day, or make us care which aliens from which faraway planet prevail.

2/5 stars