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i am number four

USA 2011
Directed by
D J Caruso
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3 stars

I Am Number Four

Synopsis: “John Smith” (Alex Pettyfer) is a teen who lives on the run. Because they’re aliens hiding from other aliens who are hunting them down, his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) is constantly watchful that no photos of him should show up anywhere.  But when they move to Paradise, John meets Sarah (Dianna Agron) and their teen romance causes all kinds of trouble for Henri and the town.

How much you like D J Caruso's film will depend on how you view the following value proposition: rote teen drama for 90 minutes, awesome science fiction action for 20 minutes (give or take a bit). The risk/reward ratio is fairly poor if you like sci-fi action but hate teen drama. If you want a teen romance but hate the idea of stabbing aliens with stakes a là Buffy and watching giant beasties battling through a school, then you’re in better luck, but since the big action comes at the end, you may feel betrayed. It’s a situation where no one really wins, and if it were a person God would spit it out for being neither hot nor cold.

And yet, despite it’s many, many, many flaws, about halfway through I stopped needing to fight the urge to walk out (yes, it does start off that poorly). Oddly enough, that was about the time John’s powers started to manifest and the nerdy kid, Sam (Callan McAuliffe), who’s been hanging around in the background turns out to be obsessed with aliens that kidnapped his father. Therein forms the semblance of a plot, albeit a slight one that never really gets its due, but some kind of plot nonetheless. And the cliché of the high school jock taking revenge on the new kid for daring to challenge the system gets a fun twist that manages to push the main plot forward a little too. And despite the weak script, the actors give their characters a certain degree of depth and humanity. Timothy Olyphant deserves special mention, being saddled with some of the worst “you are our last hope” hokum and managing to convince you that he actually cares. And he even manages to deliver without the slightest hint of irony the most appallingly sappy line in the entire movie. But he’s not alone. Everyone has to wrestle their way through the material (the opening voiceover is one of the worst since Harrison Ford’s wooden delivery in Blade Runner).

And yet I’m giving it three stars. Why? Because despite all its faults, the last twenty minutes is really bloody awesome. They need to make a sequel to this, and fast. Now that that woeful teen high school drama has been dealt with and a larger adventure story hinted at, I want to see it. Superpowered aliens ripping each other apart in an orgy of special effects hasn’t been this fun in a long time and it’s something I’d pay to see more of. Because I can forgive big and dumb if it’s also fun. And while it takes a long while to get fun, I Am Number Four manages to find its way there. You just need to decide if that somewhat tortuous journey is worth it.




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