'I Am Number 4'
(Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand, et al / PG-13 / 93 mins)
Overview: A teenage fugitive with an incredible secret races to stay one step ahead of the mysterious forces seeking to track and destroy him in this sci-fi action thriller from director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye). With three dead and one on the run, the race to find the elusive Number Four begins. Outwardly normal teen John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) never gets too comfortable in the same identity, and along with his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), he is constantly moving from town to town.
Verdict: Conceived by Oprah-vilified author James Frey as the beginning of a potential blockbuster franchise, I Am Number Four is nothing but a million little pieces from prior superhero series and the Twilight saga. D.J. Caruso’s generic adventure, co-written by Frey under a pseudonym, concerns John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), a hunky blond teen who is actually an alien living life on the run—along with protector Henri (a wasted Timothy Olyphant)—from sharp-teethed, gill-nosed assassins intent on destroying him and his eight extraterrestrial brethren.
In forested Paradise, Ohio, lonely John combats jock bullies, befriends a UFO-obsessed nerd (Callan McAuliffe), and finds everlasting love with Sarah (Glee’s Dianna Agron)—a beautiful outsider who’s the angsty Bella to his brooding Edward—all while discovering how to harness the ill-defined powers that emanate from his glowstick hands.
The film is constructed with the blatant intent of wooing multiple demographics: comic-book moping and murky, CGI-addled combat for him; star-crossed romance (and a sequel-ready love triangle) for her; and a cute puppy for animal lovers, too.
Schematically amalgamating pop-culture tropes, I Am Number Four is a transparent mass-market product that, with its incessant close-ups of the iPhone, also doubles as an advertisement for others.