Before walking into "I am Number Four," we were warned that is was "the worst combination of Michael Bay and 'Twilight.'" That, coupled with the fact that it was penned by infamous "memoirist," James Frey—who most remember as the guy who got Oprah's panties in a bunch over his less-than-truthful account of addiction and recovery, "A Million Little Pieces"—had us girded for disaster.
But within five minutes, to our shock, we realized we were grinning like an idiot and jumping out of our seat as director D.J. Caruso, whose previous efforts range from lackluster ("Disturbia") to unwatchable ("Taking Lives"), delivered genuine tension, thrills and, most shocking of all, intentional laughter. But then we also realized why our colleagues had been so put off. "I am Number Four" isn't made for critics, it's made for teenagers who've been suffering (or maybe that's us) through hacky vampire dreck for the past few years. It may not be Hogwarts, but it's a massive step up from the Cullens and Volturis.
As the title makes clear, the film introduces audiences to the-second-coming-of-Robert-Pattinson, Alex Pettyfer as Number Four, an alien sent to earth with eight other gifted infants after their home planet was invaded and destroyed. Each is given a guardian, in Number Four's case, the imminently watchable Timothy Olyphant, and assigned a number, they can only be killed in numeric sequence. Why? Because how else can we have easily designated sequels like "I am Number Five" or, the next film expected should "Four" fare well, "The Power of Six"?
Following the murders of Numbers One, Two, and Three, Number Four is living on high alert in Paradise, Ohio, as an American high school student named John Smith. But when he falls in love (with Pettyfer's real life lady, "Glee" star Dianna Agron), he realizes he needs to stand up and fight. Luckily for him, Number Six (Teresa Palmer) shows up in the nick of time to show him what alien ass-kicking is all about.
In truth, Palmer is the real star of this film. Agron and Pettyfer are dewy and delightful, but when Number Six arrives on screen, you realize just how good this movie could have been with more action, less mooning and a heftier dose of the palpably charismatic young Aussie actress.
With the end of the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" film franchises in sight, everyone's looking for the heir apparent and "Number Four," with its teen angst-filled love story and barely shrouded puberty metaphors (when one power kicks in during school, we couldn't help but laugh at the obvious erection allusions), is a series we look forward to seeing grow. No pun intended.