Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer
Directed by: D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye”)
Written by: Alfred Gough (TV’s “Smallville”), Miles Millar (TV’s “Smallville”), Marti Noxon (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)
Give author James Frey some credit. Not many people could battle the media beast that is Oprah Winfrey and live to write another day. If memory doesn’t serve, Frey fibbed about the facts of a memoir a few years ago and received a severe tongue lashing from O after she placed it on her esteemed book club list. Since then, Frey has dusted himself off and now sets his sights on penning the next series young adult blockbusters.
The venture is off to a terribly shaky start with his first effort, “I Am Number Four,” a sci-fi novel turned unimpressive motion picture directed by D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye”) in an attempt to fill the void left behind by a commercial success like “The Twilight Saga.” While Frey was quoted as saying he didn’t “want to write books that look like other people’s books” after his literary fracas subsided, the film adaptation of “Four” suggests him a liar again.
Replace the melodramatic vampires and werewolves with some equally angsty extraterrestrials and “Four” is an obvious imitation with faint originality. Set in small town Ohio, newcomer Alex Pettyfer plays John Smith, a teenager who happens to be one of the last nine aliens left from his destroyed planet. Along with a gang of Romulan rejects (they’re actually called Mogadorians) in black trench coats hunting them down in numerical order, John (No. 4) is also caught up in high school politics when he falls for the popular artsy girl and pisses off the quarterback.
It’s no surprise the film’s screenwriters are the same team behind the TV series “Smallville.” John might be a hybrid of a young Superman and a sparkling blood sucker, but it’s a moot point nonetheless. There’s absolutely nothing heroic about a squeaky-clean kid who shoots light from his palms and exhibits as much personality as a cardboard cutout.