“I Am Number Four” (Dir. D.J. Caruso, 2011)
Since its release on February 18th this big budget adaptation of a best selling young adult sci-fi novel has been largely panned by critics (it’s at 30% on the Rotten Tomatometer), but largely loved by audiences (it opened at #2 and is aptly #4 at the box office right now).
I could see both sides when I attended an afternoon screening of it at the IMAX Theatre At Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh. The 10 year old theater had just been renovated the previous month with new seats, new carpeting, a new projection system and a new screen so the experience was enhanced greatly, but such an immaculate presentation can also hugely highlight a film’s flaws.
The first and biggest flaw was the overly familiar formula. A teenager from another planet who has super powers tries to fit in at a small town high school while falling in love with the resident jock bully’s blonde ex-girlfriend.
The protagonist, the number 4 of the title, is played by Alex Pettyfer looking like he stepped out of a magazine ad with his bed head hair and chiseled physique.
Pettyfer and his guardian (Timothy Olyphant from “Deadwood”) are on the run from an evil race of aliens that destroyed their home planet.
These intergalactic heavies, led by Kevin Durand, come off like lower level “Star Trek” villains with their tribal tattooed bald heads and what looks like gills on their faces.
Pettyfer befriends Callan McAuliffe as the school’s resident nerd whose conspiracy theorist father went missing while hunting UFOs in Mexico. “My entire childhood was an episode of ‘The X-Files’.” McAuliffe says which calls attention that nearly everything here feels like it’s from somewhere else.
We’ve got the Superman “Smallville” steals, the “Twilight”-like love story, and the “Terminator”-esque destructive action sequences for starters. There are also echoes of “Transformers”, “X-Men”, “Starman”, and every super hero movie ever made.
But the demographic that this is aimed at hasn’t lived through the decades of clichés that older critics have and will likely be immersed in this material. It’s dominated by close-ups of pretty people – apart from Pettyfer the camera adores Dianna Agron as the love interest – and it moves fast through fluid set pieces.
It’s purely mindless entertainment, and while the special effects are far below “Avatar” level, the acting wooden, and the plot standard issue, the kids won’t care. They’ll eat it up like the competent eye candy it is and move on to the next shiny thing.
For Raleigh area parents taking the kids to “I Am Number Four” at the IMAX Theater at Marbles Kids Museum it can simply be an excuse to check out the fresh renovations and revel in an experience that can even make a mediocre movie transcendent.