I Am Number Four: Produced by Michael Bay, Directed by D. J. Caruso, Starring Alex Pettyfer and Timothy Olyphant

Though Michael Bay is credited as producer, he might as well be the director of the alien sci-fi actioner “I Am Number Four,” for the picture bears his visual and technical signature, particularly in its big, noisy, flashy, and overproduced action set-pieces.

Nominally the director is D.J. Caruso, who seems to have abandoned the discipline and control he had shown in his previous, slightly better outings, (“Eagle Eye,” “Disturbia”).

Gimmicky and cynical to a fault, “I Am Number Four,” is targeted toward young male viewers, who should embrace this shallow but entertaining flick, turning it into what seems like a functional franchise (the ending suggests that, too).

The mishmashy narrative, based on mindless combo of several formats is quite superficial, not to mention its lack of originality, and what keeps it together is the aggressive approach, inspired (if this is the right word) by Michael Bay.

Based on the popular 2010 novel by Pittacus Lore (a pseudonym of James Frey and Jobie Hughes), which I have not read, the seductively titled “I Am Number Four” is a sampler of a new hybrid of a movie, one which wants to please the teen aficionados of almost every possible genre, sci-fi, thriller, actioner, and romantic melodrama too—anything goes.

Inevitable comparisons will be made to such prevalent TV series, such as “Roswell” or “Smallville,” not to mention “Twilight,” which are all set in small towns and feature heroes that are misfits and outsiders

The picture also shamelessly borrows ideas and elements from “X-Men,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Escape to Witch Mountain,” and especially “The X-Files” (which is explicitly alluded to in the saga).

The prologue is set in a jungle, where a youngster is ambushed and killed.  It turns out he is the third in a chain of nine survivors from a planet called Lorien. The survivors are pursued, one by one, by the Mogadorians, a menacing race of tattooed and leather-clad villains.

The method, the method: It’s quickly established that the Mogadorians can only kill the Loric survivors in numerical order. And, indeed, after the prologue we are introduced to Number Four, John Smith (played by the handsome British actor Alex Pettyfer), a beach boy in Florida who’s fully aware that he’s next in line.

An outsider always on the move, John and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) are on their way to rural Ohio, where the latter hopes John would fit, not to mention assimilate, with the rest of the boys of the local high school.

But we have seen movies—and know better.  Predictably, on his very first day, John clashes with the school’s bully Mark (Jake Abel) to nearly disastrous effects.

However, listening to his better instincts, John befriends a nicer boy, the UFO-obsessed Sam (Callan McAuliffe), and also courts the sexy Sarah (Dianna Agron, who plays a cheerleader in the popular TV series, “Glee”), with whom he shares some interests in common.

Size matters: Impersonally helmed by Caruso, who is no more than a decent craftsman here (sort of a traffic manager), “I Am Number Four” does offers some technical diversions for the eye. The witless movie progressively (and regressively) becomes a quintessential Michael (”Transformers” franchise) Bay movie in its climactic blow-out, replete with huge CGI monsters, huge explosions, huge noise, huge nonsense.  With and under Bay’s supervision, the picture gives the impression that any director could have handled the project.

Few thespians have managed to impress through their acting in Michael Bay’s films, and this respect, with the exception of Olyphant, who brings some edge to his part, “I Am Number Four” is also a typical Bay creation.

A former British model, the blondish, rather stiff Alex Pettyfer, who’s 20 but looks older, may or may not become a Hollywood star.  Time will tell: Pettyfer will be seen in the course of the year in several high-profile flicks, such as “Beastly,” a romance to be released in March and the sci-fi thriller “Now,” in October.

Cast

John – Alex Pettyfer
Henri – Timothy Olyphant
Number 6 – Teresa Palmer
Sarah – Dianna Agron
Sam – Callan McAuliffe
Mogadorian Commander – Kevin Durand
Mark – Jake Abel

Credits

 

A Disney release of a DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Big Entertainment presentation of a Bay Films production.

Produced by Michael Bay.

Executive producers, David Valdes, Chris Bender, J.C. Spink.

Co-executive producers, Langley Perer, Matthew Cohan.

Directed by D.J. Caruso.

Screenplay, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon, based on the novel by Pittacus Lore.