Conceived by Oprah-vilified author James Frey as the beginning of a potential blockbuster franchise, I Am Number Four is nothing but a million little pieces from prior superhero series and the Twilight saga. D.J. Caruso’s generic adventure, co-written by Frey under a pseudonym, concerns John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), a hunky blond teen who is actually an alien living life on the run—along with protector Henri (a wasted Timothy Olyphant)—from sharp-teethed, gill-nosed assassins intent on destroying him and his eight extraterrestrial brethren. In forested Paradise, Ohio, lonely John combats jock bullies, befriends a UFO-obsessed nerd (Callan McAuliffe), and finds everlasting love with Sarah (Glee’s Dianna Agron)—a beautiful outsider who’s the angsty Bella to his brooding Edward—all while discovering how to harness the ill-defined powers that emanate from his glowstick hands. The film is constructed with the blatant intent of wooing multiple demographics: comic-book moping and murky, CGI-addled combat for him; star-crossed romance (and a sequel-ready love triangle) for her; and a cute puppy for animal lovers, too. Schematically amalgamating pop-culture tropes, I Am Number Four is a transparent mass-market product that, with its incessant close-ups of the iPhone, also doubles as an advertisement for others.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 16, 2011