Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Now Showing

There's nothing wrong (or new, for that matter) with a teen soap with an extraterrestrial bent, but some consistency would be nice. I Am Number Four, Disney's foray into this genre, has as many holes in its plot as there are stars in the galaxy from which its hunky, young alien John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) hails.

The 17-year-old (in human years) is hiding out on Earth with his protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), following the destruction of his planet by a rival alien species, the Mogadorians (who, despite the name, aren't cat people). But it's not that easy to be inconspicuous when you're a teenager in Miami and prone to getting your waterskiing activities uploaded to YouTube, and just as your alien powers are kicking in, too.

John, also known as Number 4, is one of nine 'special' inhabitants sent away before their planet's fall. Their powers, known as legacies, will eventually bring about some greater cosmic good but for now, John and his ilk have to focus on staying alive. Numbers One, Two and Three are already dead (the Mogadorians kill in numerical order; as obsessive-compulsive as they are ugly) and John is next.

But of greater concern for John is wooing the pretty girl with the camera, Sarah (Glee's Dianna Agron), at his new school (why an on-the-run alien would want to attend high school being one of those aforementioned plot holes) in Ohio, following his and Henri's sudden departure from Miami.

John also makes friends with Sam (Aussie newcomer, Callan McAuliffe), the outsider kid who, like his missing dad, believes in the existence of extraterrestrials. Maybe I got bored and started directing my own version of the film at this point, but did anyone else find McAuliffe's Sam giving off a Sal Mineo vibe to Pettyfer's Alien Rebel Without A Clue? No? Oh, well.

Eventually the Mogadorians track John Smith down, around about the same time Number 6 (a leather-clad, bike-riding Teresa Palmer whose accent is as inconsistent as the film's internal logic) arrives in town to lend her numerical cousin a hand. Cue acrobatic fight scenes, explosions and shapeshifting alien dogs (no, really).

None of this would be all that bad if I Am Number Four didn't take itself so seriously. There's very few light moments in the film, most of them arriving late with Palmer's Number 6. Before that the Mogadorians (bald and tattooed, with no dental plan and speaking an alien language) exhibit more personality than our 'hero' Pettyfer, who's cast in the brooding (re: pouting) teen mold though a million light years away from James Dean.

No doubt the intended teen audience will love it. Disney would certainly hope so; the ending suggests a sequel (or multiples: I Am Number Four Still; Finding Number Five?), and with Harry Potter about to disappear from cinemas for good, there's an opening for a fantasy franchise. A little more magic and lot less brooding could do wonders for I Am Number Four #2.

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