I Am Number Four (review)

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They Bore Among Us

High school is hard. High school is even harder when you’re a secret alien from another planet in hiding from big scary guys with enormous feet and weird tattoos on their bald heads who are after you for reasons no one really understands. Except maybe that you’re the last of your kind. Well, apart from your alien-warrior protector, who isn’t specially numbered like you are. And now that No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 — and, presumably, their protectors — are dead, you’re next. Or something. For some reason.
Why are these numbered kids so important? Why are the bad aliens with the big feet so inconsistent in their badness, because they could be having fun decimating Earth and the six billion plus humans on it, instead of hunting down one random bland blond kid? Who cares! John Smith (the exceptionally bland and blond Alex Pettyfer) is a sad and lonely and brooding and a-DOR-able cute alien guy! He uses his awesome alien powers to come to the defense of geeks getting bullied! He likes sensitive, artistic girls! And they like him back! *sigh* It’s just like Twilight except he’s from outer space instead of inner night. It’s just like Harry Potter only totally without any charm or humor at all. If life on other planets is just like life on Earth, except the bland blond kid’s palms glow with alien X-Men superpowers and he can’t even make that interesting, I’m going to be very disappointed by the universe. Even John’s supposedly kick-ass alien warrior guardian is kinda lame: Henri lets John take in a beagle puppy that is clearly Trouble, like it’s surely gotta be an alien metamorph with giant acid-drooling fangs or something, and if even I — who am not a kick-ass alien warrior guardian as far as I know — could smell that, why couldn’t the guy who’s supposed to be an actual kick-ass alien warrior guardian see that?

At least Henri is played by the most excellent and very handsome Timothy Olyphant (Justified, The Crazies), so I wasn’t one-hundred-percent bored out my skull by I Am Number Four — only about 99 percent. Because Olyphant’s riveting talents are wasted here. Why couldn’t the movie be about a last-of-his-kind-alien who’s 40 instead of 16? Ah, right: because… well… I dunno. Because adolescence and high school as a metaphor for feeling outcast and alienated hasn’t been quite done to death yet? If there is a new nuance to find in the trope, Four doesn’t find it. But there is a big climactic battle between all sorts of aliens at the high school that is likely good for at least one unexpected day off for the students, there’s so much damage. So there’s that teen fantasy indulged. Harry Potter and Twilight never did that.

I suppose if big dumb movies like this one usually can’t even draw human people in a believable way, we shouldn’t expect them to draw alien people in a believably alien way. Crap like Henri’s warning to John, re his sensitive photographer nerdy-but-hot girlfriend (Dianna Agron: OMG she’s totally from Glee!) that they “don’t love like the humans” — they love forever! *sigh* — doesn’t really count as alien, because it’s just meant to make the swoony teenaged girls watching give up their membership on Team Edward or Team Jacob and come over to Team Four. Maybe that’ll even work. Maybe those girls will even appreciate how yucky John must feel when he gets his “alien legacy” right in class! Glowing palms might be more cool than your period, but it’s just as embarrassing. We’ll know, perhaps, if fickle teenaged audiences have switched their allegiance if the sequel that is threatened here comes to pass. After all, there’s still at least Number Five to deal with. Number Six appears here, but I won’t spoil anything by revealing who it is. Oh, but it’s not the beagle.

Watch I Am Number Four online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.

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