a critiQal film review I Am Number Four (2011)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Extraordinary teen John Smith (Pettyfer) is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events - his first love (Agron), powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny.

514 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 34s)

After starring in the Beauty & The Beast remake Beastly (2011), up and coming new actor Alex Pettyfer took to the action genre with a bang. He starred in I Am Number Four, a sci-fi teen action flick that seemed to combine elements of both The Covenant (2006) and defunct show “Roswell” (TV).

But, would this new teen actioneer bridge the generation gap? Or would only 13-year-olds really enjoy I Am Number Four?

Alex Pettyfer does a decent job in the role he’s been given. At first, he seems like just another towheaded beach bum teen, content with riding the waves on his jet ski and partying on the beach long into the night. But, viewers soon discover he’s much more – and Pettyfer helps the viewers make the transition to his actual self (an alien from another world) an easy one, as he struggles through the same trials and tribulations of a regular teen while at the same time constantly having to look over his shoulder for bad guys from another dimension.

As his mentor/protector, Timothy Olyphant, as he’s recently done with his hit series Justified (TV), has finally found a big screen role suited to him. With a mane of hair once again covering his head (so no Hitman (2007) flashbacks, thankfully), he manages to play the tough-yet-caring protector extremely well, coming off as genuine, rather than cheesy.

Yes, there’s a teen romance involved as well, but that doesn’t deliver quite as well, as the chemistry between Pettyfer and Teresa Palmer seems to falter every so often. But that’s due to some silly interference from a love-of-photography-hiding-something-deeper subplot that fizzles out before really managing to gain any steam.

The action is large and in-your-face, with everything from massive explosions and gigantic beasts looking like they just stepped out of a nightmare. The plot holds together pretty well throughout it all. But, I Am Number Four still manages to have a few faults mixed in with all the fun.

It’s entertaining to take the journey of discovery with Pettyfer’s character John as he discovers his powers, and the addition of a shape-shifter turns out much more entertaining than expected. But the viewer never quite shakes the feeling the movie never really quite lives up to it’s potential – and is unashamed about it. Maybe it’s the quick intercuts between John’s story and other, mysterious characters wreaking havoc in different parts of the world. Maybe it’s the obvious connections between the unexpected changes of puberty and Pettfer’s journey to unleash his powers. Maybe it’s just the bit-too-obvious hamming of most of the actors. Whatever may be the cause behind it, viewers will feel that same The Covenant (2006) vibe. Teens are the target audience, and everyone else shouldn’t be disappointed that I Am Number Four never tries – or wants – to become more than just another teen action flick.

And yet, in some small way, those of us who have left our teenage years behind us are still a bit disappointed that I Am Number Four never even tries to become something more than that.

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