I AM NUMBER FOUR (2011) (**)
John Smith is played by the up-and-coming hunk Alex Pettyfer (BEASTLY). He is an alien hiding out on Earth with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant, TV's JUSTIFIED), who poses as his father. The evil Mogadorians are hunting the nine superpowered aliens in numerical order. The numbering system is never explained. Number 3 has just been killed and John is Number 4.
After an exposure in their last home, John and Henri move to Paradise, Ohio, which John says should be renamed Ironic. I was surprised to learn that these characters know what irony is. Enrolling himself in high school, John quickly falls for the fledgling photographer Sarah (Dianna Agron, TV's GLEE). This angers her ex-boyfriend and school quarterback Mark (Jake Abel, THE LOVELY BONES). John also finds himself in between Mark and his whipping post Sam (Callan McAuliffe, FLIPPED), an outcast UFO buff.
What's so disappointing with the film is how lazy it is considering the people involved. Director D.J. Caruso helmed episodes of THE SHIELD. His feature work does include the stinkers EAGLE EYE and TAKING LIVES, but also the well-paced DISTURBIA. Working from the novel by Jobie Hughes and James Frey (as Pittacus Lore), Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (SMALLVILLE) and Marti Noxon (MAD MEN) penned the script.
The John and Henri relationship is really weak. John gets discovered. They move. Henri tells him that he needs to stay way undercover, not even going to school in this town. The Mogadorians are tracking them through the Internet. But when John enrolls in school anyway, Henri easily relents. I wondered what kind of tension would have been created between them if John would have just enrolled and not tell Henri before he went. They stay in a foreclosed house, where they install all kinds of security equipment, but no small town realtor shows up to question the squatters. When John's powers start to get out of control on him, he seems to be completely unaware that it might happen. You'd think in Henri's low-profile plan he would have explained that John's hands might start glowing red hot one day and to take a deep breath to control it. What a great protector.
The story is also filled with obligatory characters. A lizard transforms into a beagle and John takes him in as his pet. The pooch becomes his protector. Number 6 (Teresa Palmer, THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE) knows who the dog is, but why not John? Speaking of Number 6, she's the sexiest deus-ex machinca I've ever seen. She gets two scenes to establish her and then she shows up right when John needs a kickass partner. I wondered what kind of tension would have been created if she was there from the beginning and a love triangle formed between John, Sarah and her.
I wondered a lot throughout the film. I liked Sam and his conflict with his steel worker turned UFO hunter father and the flashy fight choreographer at the end is pretty. But the film is far more focused on trying to tap into the TWILIGHT craze. John Smith is a less sparkly Edward Cullen clone. Giggles trickled through the crowd when following a fist fight, Henri explains to John that their kind love forever. It's not the sentiment that is funny, but the execution. The only execution this film gets right is the execution of a potential franchise.