I Am Number Four was billed by people who didn’t pay attention to the trailers as Twilight with aliens, which is unfair to both IANF and aliens. If Twilight had been made by Paramount instead of Summit Entertainment, that may have been more accurate (and awesome), but as it stands, “Twilight with [blank]” is just a bitchy way for critics and the internet to dismiss anything that looks like it might be interesting to teenage girls, and since that annoys me on principle, I have made it my mission in life to consume all media described in this manner. I mean, Twilight obviously sucks balls like a glitterlicious vampire sucks…well, balls, but let’s not get all judgmental.
I Am Number Four is about a teenage boy, whose name is either Daniel or John Smith or Alienface or Four or something, and he’s played by Alex Pettyfer with almost no life at all. I guess Standard Heroes are Standard Heroes, even if they’re aliens. He’s capable enough, and he looked good in the trailer for Beastly that played before this film, but he’s fairly wooden and blank-slatey here. That’s fine for Edward Cullen, because he’s a blank slate for girls to project their fantasies on, but Daniel John Smith Four is supposed to be who we care about. He’s an alien, one of nine sent to Earth as infants and meant to protect their home planet, Lorian, but they never got the chance. Lorian was destroyed by our bad guys–weird fishy alien smartasses with hillbilly dentistry, head tattoos, and nonsensical gills at the sides of their totally human noses called Mogadorians. They apparently had some kind of beef with Lorian, or maybe with the whole universe, and they now go around killing planets just to be dicks. They’re hunting down the nine earthbound aliens, and have been since our seventeen year old hero was nine. The main bad alien is played by Kevin Durand, which is just a waste of that beautiful face. He’s not wooden at all, however, but kind of kicky and sassy for a man wearing a coat that long.
Unfortunately wooden is Dianna Agron, who is lovely but doesn’t provoke much empathy, as she’s a very reserved actress. The jury‘s still out on whether that works on Glee, as I‘ve only seen the first half of the first season and she‘s supposed to be an icy cheerleader, but it really doesn‘t work here. Her character, Sarah, is meant to be kind of dry while still having a lot of feelings, but. You can’t even tell when this girl is crying. I mean, I’m fairly certain she cries at least once, but I don’t really remember when that was. Sarah is a hipster photographer and wants to get out of her small town, like all hipster photographers and teenagers do.
Callan McAuliffe plays Sam, the nerdy, useless sidekick. If I am hard on him, it’s not because McAuliffe is a bad actor, but rather the character is annoying. BECAUSE HE IS. Billie in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is almost competent and rational compared to this mofo. Sympathy for the bullied only extends so far.
Jake Abel is the mean bully, and since he is not a real character, we do not need to spend much time on him. I don’t even remember the character’s name. Maybe it’s Mark? It’s probably Mark. He is mean to Sam. Then he’s mean to Four when Four is nice to Sam. He’s creepy and kidnaps his ex-girlfriend, who is Sarah. Then he becomes a good guy. NATURALLY. Just once, I’d like a movie bully to get his oblig hero moment, then give the real hero a purple nurple. The capacity to do something good doesn’t automagically make you not a complete shithead–or, in Mark’s case, it doesn‘t make you not a violent sociopath.
Number Six (Theresa Palmer), another alien baby, is a hardcore Australian with mermaid hair and a sweet motorcycle and doesn’t look at explosions, even as they’re engulfing her, because she’s fireproof. Number Six can teleport to kick the shit out of you from eight different directions at once. Number Six taught me how to love a woman, and how to scold a child. She once alien-touched an injured flamingo back to health. TO NUMBER SIX!
Henri (Timothy Olyphant) is Four’s mentor/dad/secret lover . Okay, I’m lying–he’s not Four’s real dad. Henri protects Four from any and all threats to his existence, up to and including Youtube, using only a glowing blue machete and his amazing body and a bunch of computers that get him mistaken for a terrorist. Henri’s fucking rad, is what he is.
The movie begins on a beach in Miami, where Four showboats on a Sea-Doo, is macked on by a girl, and then his calf starts glowing and burning. She calls him a freak and runs away. People film him as he seizes on the sand. He wakes up alone the next morning, and Henri’s ponytail is upset and kind of a bitch, and tells Four that they have to move again while throwing all his photographs onto a bonfire.
Apparently the ponytail went on there too, because they get to Paradise, Ohio and Henri’s hair is normal. There was some narration on the roadtrip, Four giving us the history of his arrival on this planet and Henri. Also, in case you were wondering, this movie is indeed the sort of movie to point out that naming a dreary place Paradise is IRONIC. As in “They should have named this place Ironic.” Brilliant writing!
Upon arrival in rainy Paradise, a little CGI lizard that has been stalking our heroes turns into a very real and adorable beagle that Four names Bernie, after an Ohio athlete that Henri knows about for some reason. The movie either tries to fake us out at this point or Timothy Olyphant goes completely but temporarily insane and Henri gets cagey about, like, everything. He chose Paradise because he has “business” to attend to, and he keeps repeating that with Timothy Olyphant’s wide-eyed weirdo acting-face that can either mean he’s wants you to believe him or he’s about to do something inappropriate to your lifeless corpse. Either way: I’m down, bro. txt it.
Four decides to go to high school as this has totally worked out for him in the past. He eavesdrops on Sarah and the principal in the principal’s office. Apparently she’s acting out by taking pictures of teachers in compromising positions and putting them on the internet. This movie is rated PG-13 so the compromising positions don’t involve nude students, but fingers up noses. SHOCK AND SCANDAL.
Sarah calls Four on his eavesdropping. The complete lack of charisma and chemistry on the screen with these two is astonishing. They flirt (“flirt”) and Sarah asks for Four’s name. He says “John Smith,” and she rolls her eyes and says it’s fine if he doesn’t want to tell her his real name. The look on Four’s alien face says we’re supposed to take this as a comedy beat, but…uh…John Smith isn’t his real name. That’s the opposite of a joke. I’m not kidding when I say that this movie rests on the shoulders of the actors, because the writing is not pulling any weight whatsoever.
Four has a hard time getting his locker open. Sam appears, then gets smashed into the lockers by Mark and his bros. Mark is cordial with Four, and Four is like “Whatever” and talks to Sam when Mark and his posse peace out. Sam’s all angsty and helps Four open his locker.
Outside at lunchtime, Mark’s bro throws a football directly into Sam’s brain. Four goes over to help him out, then returns the football really hard. Mark’s all “Douche move” while picking up the shattered remnants of his bro’s ribcage and picking internal organs out of the bushes. Sam‘s all “Don‘t hang out with me!” which is a terrible idea–I get warning somebody off, but Sam, Alienface has clearly seen that Mark is willing to nail you in the skull with a football hard enough to put you in the hospital, in full view of fifty students. He understands that you are a professional victim. If he wants to help your ass out, just let him.
Sarah takes pictures. Four checks out her website when he gets home, and sees that he is starring in a new photo project called Strangers in Paradise. At least, he was for about five minutes, but Henri’s 1337 h4xx0r skillz (removing every instance of Four’s face from the whole entire internet) knock the pictures offline one by one. Henri stops in the doorway and is like “Shame on you for allowing that creepy girl to photograph you when you weren’t paying attention and then publish the pictures online without your consent.” Dear god, what of all those poor kids Four has left behind in other towns, kids whose Facebooks have been WREAKED UPON by Henri’s paranoia? “Skyler, that deleted picture of your brother at the party was totally your last picture of him before he died in that Sea-Doo accident! :(”
Meanwhile, Henri and Bernie the dog are having hilarious staring matches. Henri hides a mysterious box inside a grandfather clock (it’s supposed to go to Four when Four is ready), and the dog is watching it intently even after Henri walks away. He stares suspiciously at Bernie until Bernie looks up like “What, motherfucker?”
The next day, Four is watching a movie in science class. Mark comes up and tries to make nice, but inadvertently causes Four to flip out like a sassy haircut and start glowing uncontrollably. He yells and runs away, throwing himself into a broom closet to yell at his floodlight hands. I have it on good medical authority that this is what could happen if you touch yourself at night. Four passes out.
Henri wakes him up some indeterminable amount of time later, having felt a disturbance in the force. A very gay scene ensues in which he talks Four down while they’re inside this cramped broom closet, EXCEPT ANYONE MIGHT NOTICE THE GROWN MAN AND THE TEENAGER INSIDE A BROOM CLOSET, ESPECIALLY IF LIKE THE RESOURCE OFFICER OR SCHOOL NURSE OR A TEACHER OF SOME KIND HAPPENED TO BE WALKING DOWN THE HALLWAY AND LOOKING FOR THE KID WHO JUST SCREAMED AND RAN OUT OF THE ROOM oh my god. This school has the most negligent teachers ever. Quaaludes don’t go in coffee, you guys! Henri explains that Four’s glowing hands are a legacy, which is an alien power bestowed on the nine babies who were supposed to protect Lorian. Four is scared, but Henri tells him he’ll get good at controlling his power.
When they get home, Henri’s all ready to pack their shit and go, but Four wants to stay. Henri caves, on the condition that Four wait a few days until everyone forgets that he ran shrieking and glowing out of a darkened classroom. Surprise, everyone totally forgets! Except Sarah, who asks him what happened when they meet while walking down the street. Four makes up some lame story about a prank with a flashlight. When your whole life is a lie, you’d think a person would get a bit more creative with time. Sam’s stepdad yells at him across the way.
Four goes home with Sarah, where her family has a dorky, loving dinner and that just totally grosses Sarah out, like oh my god. I understand embarrassing families and I understand feeling trapped where you are, but cheese and rice, girl, you’re seventeen years old and you’ve got a family that loves you (and apparently buys you expensive hipster cameras and supports turning your hobby into a career). Four feels the same way I do. They chat a little bit in Sarah’s room. Four flips through her scrapbook diary while she acts annoyed. He says that it’s unfair that she’s allowed to take pictures of everyone, but nobody can know her. She lets him borrow her favorite camera, and they’re about to kiss, but suddenly Bernie starts cockblocker-barking in the front yard, and Four makes his exit. But Mark’s in a car, waiting outside Sarah’s house! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUN. He totally just watches Four and Bernie leave.
The next day at school, red paint explodes out of Four and Sam’s lockers. Why the fuck is nobody watching these students. Four and Mark almost get into a fight, but Four backs down so as not to cause a scene. Sam is sad because a picture with his father got paint on it, so they go clean up in the bathrooms and put on lost and found clothes. Four’s new sweater is supposed to be ugly, but on Alex Pettyfer it just looks like he’s modeling it. So: yes, it is ugly, but it also looks great. Sam talks a bit about his missing dad.
Henri is exploring an abandoned mine, where SPOILER ALERT! Sam’s missing alien-conspiracy-theorist father used to work. I wonder if he has anything to do with anything at all! Let me save you some time: the movie never says. Henri finds some alien runes and a blue geode.
Meanwhile: Number Six is rooting around the house in Miami, then blows it up. The Mogadorians also root around the house in Miami, and discover that Four is still alive. Later on, they buy like ten whole raw turkeys at once and feed them to an unseen monster in a giant truck. This is hilarious because there are boxes of something along with the turkeys on the conveyor belt, so I guess one of the aliens got hungry for cereal.
Sam warns Four off of Sarah, telling him about how she used to date Mark and Mark took the breakup with all the grace and aplomb of a goddamn maniac. Nobody can get near her, Sam says. Four is all, “Well, I say! Let me totally ignore the fact that I have spent time with her and enjoy her company and like her quite a bit, and now I’m going to ignore her like an asshole and give her dirty looks. Thanks for telling me only the barest bones of what is surely a complicated situation so that I may make hasty value judgments on her! And I‘m sure you have no biases whatsoever!” And he ignores her and gives her dirty looks while moping around.
That lasts like a day, until he goes to the fair and they hash shit out. She broke up with Mark because he was a megadouche, and he told all their friends that she was a bitch. They believed him, and now she has no friends. Four is like “I don’t have any friends either!” so they go on a haunted hayride. They hayride stops in the woods, and there’s a walkthrough component. Then the walkthrough component ends, and there’s NINJAS IN THE NIGHT COMING TO PUNCH YOUR FACE AND KIDNAP YOUR LADY FRIEND. Sam hears Sarah screaming and skulks around a bit, watching as she’s taken away and Four kicks the shit out of the remaining night ninjas, hands all a-glow.
Sarah is brought to Mark, who is has gone way past douchey ex-boyfriend; he has entered the realm of reckless endangerment and a serious psychotic breakdown. Sarah’s pissed. Mark’s like fuck, maybe I shouldn’t have taken my romantic cues from Edward Cullen just before he gets nailed to a wall by Four, who almost breaks his throwing arm. Sarah yells for him to stop. I think this is when she cries, but I could be mistaken. Four looks annoyed for a minute, but she asks him to walk her home. It’s the one moment of chemistry they have in the whole movie.
They make out on Sarah’s porch while her mom flicks the lights on and off. That’s cute. Four is jazzed as he walks home, breaking streetlights for no reason, but then he gets a text from Sam, who a) saw what went down and b) wants to talk to Four in his garage at 3 a.m. Sam confronts him, and Four just tells him the truth. Sam thinks this has something to do with his dad, and Four goes along with it. Sam’s stepfather yells at him to get back in the house, and Four goes home.
The next day, a cop shows up. Henri’s like fffffffuuuuuuu– and calls Four “son” hilariously stiffly. Four calls Henri “dad” just as stiffly, and if this cop were smart, he would be arresting Henri just on principle. He’s not smart, though, he’s Mark’s dad, and he’s there to question Four about Mark’s injured throwing arm. Four deny deny denies and the cop leaves, still suspicious.
Henri just straight-up says that they’re getting the shit out of Ohio, because he don‘t need no po-po up his ass. Four disagrees. MORTAL KOMBAT ENSUES. Four comes out ahead for a minute, using his powers to knock Henri into the side of the house, but then Henri uses some of his body karate to beat Four into a chokehold and hand down some life lessons, on account of how Four‘s whole reason for wanting to stay is Sarah. Henri informs him that Lorians only fall in real, true love once in their lifetimes, which probably would have been pertinent information way before this, like maybe when Henri had to tell him about the alien birds and alien bees. “And so that’s what a handjob feels like. Also, you will only fall in love once, so make it count. Maybe with your handsome mentor who makes you feel secure, but has just the right amount of edge to keep things exciting.”
Henri tells him all of this and then just walks away. Cool guys don’t look at explosions OF CONFUSION AND EMOTIONS. He’s got some more stuff to deal with, mostly involving a conspiracy website called theywalkamongus.com. BUT HE SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE BACKGROUND CHECKING because it’s totally a trap.
Mark’s dad stops Sarah in the road and prepares to tell her that Four is mysterious. Durr.
This is the moment we have been dreading, because Henri is a mentor and a father figure, and we know what happens to those. Four figures out where Henri is when he notices that Henri’s missing, and calls Sam for a ride over to the creepy little house that the site operators live in. Sam has brought a shotgun and some pluck, but Alienface just thanks him for the ride and asks him to leave. He doesn’t, of course, because everything with this kid is about his father. Four manages to convince him to follow one of the site operators when he leaves, then goes into the house on his own. It’s a shame this part is so dark, because yay, Timothy Olyphant hanging from the ceiling by his wrists! But I mean boo, sad for Henri, he was beaten pretty badly.
Four pulls him down and ungags him, and Henri’s all “Trap, you stupid bitch.” Sam is dragged in by one of the website guys, who has confiscated his shotgun. There’s a tussle. Then one of the big aliens shows up, and there’s another tussle. Four gets flicked aside, and Henri handles shit with the shotgun while Sam runs out to the truck. Four helps Henri out to the truck, and the alien brushes off the shotgun blast and follows them out. Sam has lost the keys to the truck, because he is a moron. And then–AND THEN–Henri takes an alien machete in the chest to protect Four when Four takes way too long to start the car with his powers.
Four lays Henri down by some train tracks, and Henri encourages him, then turns to dust while Four cries on him. A train goes by. Four gets dangerous and…goes to find Sarah? Yeah, I don’t know, either. Leading my superpowered enemies who have just murdered my badass mentor to a bunch of defenseless humans, one of whom I am in love with, is always my first response in this situation.
The aliens are pissed at the website guys, and Kevin Durand drops what looks to be a mix between a superball and a Cuisinart into the mouth of one of them.
Sarah is sitting on the roof and is also mad at Four when he shows up. She tells him that the police have taken all of Henri’s computers and they think he’s a terrorist. The cops appear at Sarah’s house because Mark has called them, and in their rush to escape, Sarah falls off the roof. Four rescues her, and they run to the darkroom of the school, where Mark knows she’s going to go. He tells his dad this, but they are waylaid by aliens on the way there. They force Mark to give them directions.
Sam is driving the truck around, and slams on the brakes when Bernie barks at him from the street. Bernie gets in the truck.
Four shows Sarah all the pictures he’s taken with her camera; a stalker shot of Henri at the kitchen table, Bernie’s dog face, Sarah’s girl face, etc. It’s kind of lame because WHY ARE THEY WASTING TIME, ALIENS ARE COMING TO MURDER YOU. But whatever. They hear a noise and go into the hallway, and where a janitor had previously been buffing the floor is a pool of janitor blood with the floor buffer buffing it around. It’s pretty funny and gross. The power cuts out and they duck into a classroom. Mark’s face slams into the window from where the aliens have tossed him.
Sam and Bernie are sitting in the school parking lot when the aliens’ truck RELEASES THE KRAKEN in the form of two flying dragon-monsters. Bernie starts getting bigger and scarier. BERNIE IS ALSO A MONSTER.
Four and Sarah are about to bite it when Our Lady of Awesome, Number Six, power-slides in and starts raining down unholy amounts of asskicking with laser weapons and a machete like Henri’s and her teleportation abilities. It’s rad. I would have preferred a movie where Henri was her guardian and their dog was Bernie and they just traveled the world, her and Bernie beating people up while Henri rubbed his temples in the background. Alas, Hollywood won’t return my calls.
Six kicks enough ass that there’s a breather moment where they can exchange quips and exposition. Her guardian was murdered, and she’s been looking for the other alien babies on her own since then. Sarah’s like D:, and then Sam and more Mogadorians and one of the dragon monsters shows up. So does Bernie, and it is on like, almost literally, Donkey Kong. Sarah and Sam are given a Mogadorian laser weapon and are instructed to run away. Four and Six fight the aliens, Four taking the one who killed Henri, and we learn that Lorians can power up other aliens when they’ve expended themselves.
Bernie and the dragon monster fight in the locker room. It’s brutal and the CGI is well-rendered. Bernie is losing, then gets the upper hand when the dragon monster slips in some water, biting out the monster’s throat while its tail-spike stabs him repeatedly. He shrinks down into his beagle form again, and I begin to weep when he limps around with his little paw up and lays down in a puddle on the floor. I can’t handle puppy damage.
All of the Mogadorians are killed except for Kevin Durand and one of the dragons. The fight moves out to the football stadium. One of the dragons grabs Six and flies away, and Four laser-hands it around until Six can help herself. Kevin Durand and Four fight, Four depleted and weakened. He tries to heat up some of the laser bullets on Kevin Durand’s bandolier, but it doesn’t really work as well as he’d hoped. Six stabs the dragon in the brain and rides it to the ground, grabbing Four and powering him up enough to burn the bullets. She drives them back as the bullets explode, taking Kevin Durand with them, and uses her fireproof shield to keep them from being burnt up. They get up, totally glad to be alive.
The next morning, everyone’s packing up to go. Mark is even there, his arm in a sling, and looking resigned to his fate as the latest in a long line of assholes who suddenly are not assholes. Four tells Sarah he loves her and only her eternally but he has to go do some stuff blahblah, and she’s like “I guess I’ll stay here in Ohio forever to wait for you, then.” I think Six rolls her eyes so hard her sunglasses fall off, but I can’t be sure because she’s not onscreen.
Sam ends up going too, because it would be too hard to send a postcard saying “We found your dad” if they find his dad. I’m sure the truancy charges will be worth it. Bernie limps up, looking rough. GET THAT DOG SOME MEDICAL ATTENTION.
Four monologues about Henri and the road ahead as they leave town, and there’s our sequel hook.
This movie was not very good at all. The writing was awful, the directing was formulaic, and the acting ranged from okay to horrible. The main characters weren’t compelling enough to spend a whole movie on. But it really was a lot of fun, and I do not regret paying cash money to see it.