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With: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand, Jake Abel, Jeff Hochendoner, Patrick Sebes, Greg Townley, Reuben Langdon, Emily Wickersham, Molly McGinnis, Brian Howe, Andy Owen
Written by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon, based on the novel by "Pittacus Lore" (a.k.a. Jobie Hughes, James Frey)
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language
Running Time: 110
Date: 02/17/2011

I Am Number Four (2011)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

When Your Number Is Up

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I Am Number Four has an intriguing premise. Who is number four? Why is he number four, and not, say, number three or number five? We can learn from the poster and the ads that numbers one, two and three are dead, which makes it even more intriguing. Perhaps this will be a science fiction of the highest order, something that tackles the mysteries of the universe?

Sadly, no. The entire scenario is explained in the film's first 15 minutes, and then it turns into a supernatural teen romance along the lines of Harry Potter and Twilight; it even ends on a cliffhanger so that it can be made into a money-generating series. This would be fine if the film actually had something to say, but it's merely a transparent copy.

Alex Pettyfer stars as the dazzlingly handsome "number four," who is living a normal teenage life, somewhere in the Caribbean, swimming in the ocean with hot teenage girls. He learns that "number three" has died because a weird tattoo is suddenly burned into his leg. Unfortunately, this incident makes it necessary for him to move, and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) -- who poses as his father -- sets up shop in a new city. Number four is now called "John Smith."

"John Smith" begins attending a new high school, meets the local hottie Sarah (Dianna Agron), befriends the local nerd, Sam (Callan McAuliffe), and incurs the wrath of the football jock, Mark (Jake Abel), who is also the ex-boyfriend of Sarah. And so it goes, until the movie's villains attack and "John Smith" must decide whether or not to share his secret, and whether to fight or run.

The best thing that happens is that a badass chick turns up, doing flips and kicks and other spectacular Buffy-style butt-kicking moves, just generally showing everyone else how it's done. She's "Number Six," and is played by 24 year-old, Australian-born Teresa Palmer (from The Grudge 2, Bedtime Stories, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, etc.). She's absolutely awesome, perhaps even a bit too much. She makes everything else in the movie, especially the demure Sarah, look positively dull. In any case, keep your eyes on Ms. Palmer. She's going places.

Unfortunately, Number Six doesn't turn up for a long time, and we're treated to the usual, successful brand of pained, aching teenage romance, with a supernatural backdrop to make it seem more intense. Director D.J. Caruso continues his string of unimpressive, forgettable thrillers, joining things like Taking Lives (2004), Disturbia (2007), and Eagle Eye (2008), using that kind of bland, middle-of-the-road pacing and those jiggly, shaky shots for tense moments and action scenes.

If you're in high school and can't get enough of these kinds of movies, you'll be happy, or if you've never heard of the Twilight Saga but would like to see something kind of like it, you'll also be happy. But I'm not sure there's too many of those folks around. I wonder if the next installment (I Am Number Five?, I Am Number 4.2?) will ever get off the ground? If not, I hope that someone will make an entire movie about Number Six, and scrap the rest of it.

Touchstone released a three-disc set with a DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital copy. Thankfully, someone realized that Teresa Palmer is the real star of the movie, and she gets her own featurette, "Becoming Number Six." Otherwise, we get deleted scenes, and bloopers.

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