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'I Am Number Four' a shoddy, dull mess



Article Published: Feb. 24, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'I Am Number Four' a shoddy, dull mess

Alex Pettyfer and Teresa Palmer star in 'I Am Number Four.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

You can't spell "number" without "numb," the general feeling - or lack thereof - in "I Am Number Four," the foul offspring of teen angst and shoddily written science fiction.

"I Am Number Four" is less of a movie than it is a sales pitch. It's obvious the filmmakers are keen to start a new franchise, setting their dollar-signed sights on the tween-teen crowd with Bieber fever and a penchant for supernatural love triangles.

With mind-numbing performances, a Cliff's Notes screenplay and the pace of a broken unicycle, "Four" awkwardly drags audiences through a 110-minute Abercrombie & Fitch/iPhone commercial.

It's sci-fi meets "Dawson's Creek," with a cast of attractive 20-somethings posing as teenagers, who spend most of their time wading through the angst-flooded hallways of an everyday high school.

But John (fashion model turned actor Alex Pettyfer, "Tormented") isn't your normal teenager. He's one of nine interplanetary refugees whisked to Earth as infants, when their home planet, called Lorien, faced annihilation.

Sound familiar?

Instead of donning blue tights and a red cape, the now teenaged John bleaches his hair into a neatly organized mess and roams the country with his assigned alien protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant, "The Crazies"). But they're not alone.

A cruel band of black-trenchcoated aliens, called Mogadorians (Mogs for short) - the very same who obliterated Lorien - have traveled to Earth to finish the job, namely killing the nine refugees and their respective protectors. But for reasons unexplained, they have to do this in sequential order.

How the refugees were assigned numbers is never explained, but John happens to be No. 4. And with No 3. slain in the film's opening scene, John's number is up.

He and Henri take refuge in Paradise, Ohio, where John - ignoring Henri's wise warnings of keeping a low profile - promptly enrolls in high school, enrages the local bullies, befriends a nerd, and starts romancing beautiful and intelligent Sarah (Dianna Agron, TV's "Glee"), who posts his pictures all over the Internet.

Meanwhile, John's latent alien powers begin surfacing, allowing him to shoot blue light from his hands, manipulate objects in mid-air, leap to extraordinary heights and bore an audience to tears. Coupled with his first case of puppy love, this makes for a troubled adolescence, as he grapples with the balance of fate, free will and, like, totally hot girls, yo.

Needless to say, the Mogs catch up with them, graciously putting the film's dismal second act out of its angsty misery and efficiently wrapping things up with an action-packed finale, complete with CGI monsters, plenty of slow-motion walking away from explosions and a presumptuous promise (or threat) of a sequel.

It's no surprise "Four," directed by D.J. Caruso ("Eagle Eye"), was co-written by a couple "Smallville" veterans (Alfred Gough and Miles Millar), who specialize in super-powered angst.

But while that particular series boasted an original concept with already well-established characters, "I Am Number Four" is a second-rate, homogenized mess, devoid of character and any semblance of originality.

"I Am Number Four," rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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