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I Am Number Four

Teenage Spaceland

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Despite multiple attempts by Hollywood studios, major and minor, to capitalize on the decade-long commercial success of the Harry Potter franchise, only the female-oriented Twilight series has come close to matching it commercially. Other recent attempts to cash-in have failed or underperformed at the box office.

The latest attempted contender, I Am Number Four, D.J. Caruso’s (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) adaptation of Jobie Hughes and James Frey’s (writing under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore) is a soon-to-be-forgotten, one-and-done disappointment.

Obviously inspired by Twilight, I Am Number Four centers on the “Four” of the title, John (Alex Pettyfer), an alien teen from outer space. Along with eight other aliens and their guardians, John fled his dying planet for Earth. Unfortunately, other aliens, the tattoo-headed, trench-coat-wearing Mogadorians, are intent on eradicating John and the others completely. For reasons that make little logical sense, the “good” aliens can be only killed in sequence, making John the next target for the Mogadorians

After eliminating One, Two, and Three, the Mogadorian hit team targets John and his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant). While John and the other Numbers have unique, superpowered talents, Henri doesn’t. Henri carries a blue-crystal-powered dagger and can hack almost any computer network, but he can’t throw objects around with his mind or shoot blue-colored energy bolts from his hands like John can.

Keen to the dangers the alien hunters pose, Henri and John relocate to a small Midwestern town, Paradise, Ohio. Henri expects John to lay low and blend in (his newly dyed hair, however, says otherwise). Almost immediately, John becomes enamored with a local girl, Sarah (Dianna Agron), runs afoul of Sarah’s ex-boyfriend and the local jock-bully, Mark (Jake Abel), takes in a stray beagle, and befriends a classmate, Sam (Callan McAuliffe).

As the Mogadorian hit team closes in on John and Henri, Number Six (Teresa Palmer), makes her away toward John’s location (Number Five is nowhere to be found, at least for now), crossing paths with John in the last twenty minutes during the big effects- and stunt-heavy action sequence set in and around the local high school. By then, though, I Am Number Four has floundered in a sea of mediocrity, courtesy of screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (longtime Smallville writer-producers).

Gough and Millar take John and, by extension, the audience through a painfully predictable series of over-familiar incidents, an underdeveloped mythology, and faux-romantic, risible dialogue that leads, inevitably, toward an unsatisfying (and unrealistically positive) sequel-ready ending.

I Am Number Four isn’t helped by uniformly bland, unengaging performances by a mix of experienced thespians and inexperienced teen or post-teen actors, but it’s hard to blame the cast when they have to utter dialogue from Gough and Millar’s unadventurous, by-the-numbers script and D.J. Caruso’s flat, unstylish direction.