Excuse me, Twilight lovers in the Heavy audience. May I could have your attention for a second? What if I told you that there was a movie being released this week in theaters that wouldn’t include the moral dilemma of a depressed goth chick having to choose between a member of the undead or a sexy animal, but instead features an alien dude doing flips on jet-skis while making out with cheerleaders from Glee? Not only that, but it’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year! I can hear the Twi-hards lining up as I type.
At least, that’s what the fine folks at Dreamworks would love to see happen this weekend. From beginning to end, this film is a desperate attempt to emulate the success that the Twilight series has had with young adults at the box office. From it’s dreamy British leading man (Alex Pettyfer) right up to its wide open ending, director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) has put a major blemish on a pretty decent resume, and Michael Bay (Transformers) continues to impress by plopping out another crappy flick that carries his name as producer.
I Am Number Four is the story of John Smith, or Four (Pettyfer), one of nine survivors of a planet called Lorien. Now calling Earth home, they are forced to hide from a group of aliens called the Mogadorian that are out to kill them. At the beginning of the film they have just assassinated the third member of the group, hence the title of the film. At the time of the third’s death, rays of light burst out of Four’s leg at a beach party on the coast of California, freaking out all of the other teens there. The next morning he and his protector (Timothy Olyphant) pack their belongings, set their house on fire, and leave town. They settle down in Paradise, Ohio, where Four enrolls himself into high school, hoping for a normal life. It isn’t long before he has fallen in love with the star quarterback’s ex-girlfriend, made enemies with the in-crowd, been branded a freak by most of his classmates, harassed by the local sheriff, and decimates the school in a fiery final battle with the alien hunters.
This movie is just a mess. I can picture the studio execs sitting around a table brainstorming ideas when one of them suddenly exclaims, “We need a movie that blends the origin of Superboy, the emotions of your average episode of Dawson’s Creek, and whatever crap the kids like these days!” There isn’t an ounce of subtlety to be found during the entirety of the near two hour running time of this monstrosity. When another of Four’s Lorien survivors first appears on screen, they don’t waste a moment to show immediately that she is one of the good guys. There might be a twelve year old in the audience, best not to confuse them, they might not show up for the sequel.
The only actor in a cast of mostly unknowns and cyphers to actually show up to work is Timothy Olyphant (Justified). Unfortunately, Olyphant continues to prove that his agent is much better at choosing television projects for his client than film scripts. As Four’s protector, Olyphant plays the character with just the right amount of range, moving effortlessly from comic relief to bad ass in the blink of an eye. If only some cash could have been freed up to hire real actors for some of the other parts, perhaps the performances wouldn’t have felt so painfully amateurish.
Dreamworks really thought they had a franchise on their hands with this one, but what they actually have is a nonstarter. At the end of the film, as the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but to think back on a few years ago when the studios tried to crank out several other new franchises for kids that just didn’t work. Josie and the Pussycats, Bratz, Nancy Drew, all directed at girls, all failing miserably. Here is another for the pile.