I Am Number Four
dir DJ Caruso
prd Michael Bay
scr Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon
with Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand, Jake Abel, Judith Hoag, Jeff Hochendoner, Beau Mirchoff, Emily Wickersham, Brian Howe
release US 18.Feb.11; UK 23.Feb.11
11/US DreamWorks 1h44
I Am Number Four
Just normal kids? Agron and Pettyfer

olyphant palmer mccauliffe
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I Am Number Four All you have to do is look at the producer, director and writers' names and you pretty much know what to expect from this sci-fi/superhero teen action movie. It's very silly, but also thoroughly entertaining because it gives us exactly what we want.

When the evil Mogadorians invade the planet Lorien, nine super-powered infants are sent to earth, charged with both preserving their race and protecting humanity. The Mog commander (Durand) has already done away numbers one to three, and has caught the scent of Number Four (Pettyfer), who's hiding with his guardian Henri (Olyphant) in Ohio. Going by the name John, he just wants to be a normal teen with a sexy, interesting girlfriend (Agron) and a nerdy, loyal friend (McAuliffe). But he's also being followed by a hot super-babe (Palmer). Plus a shape-shifting puppy.

Cleverly, the premise captures that Harry Potter-style sense of a teen rebelling against his big destiny, because of course having extra-special powers is such a burden when you just want to fit in. In other words, the film will hugely appeal to the wishful child in all of us, and Pettyfer plays the role exactly right. He's even able to add some believably dark shadings to the character. Although you might think that this lean, muscled Abercrombie model's real super-ability is to create a professionally layered dye-job in his sink at home.

The cast around him is just as engaging, with Olyphant developing a nice uncle-style camaraderie and Agron providing a smart romantic lead who actually generates some PG-style steam. McAuliffe brings some spiky intelligence to his increasingly interesting role, and Abel is suitably nasty as the school bully. Although he's nothing compared with Durand's scene-chomping baddie. Meanwhile, Palmer gleefully rampages across the screen, providing a lust object for post-pubescents.

Caruso keeps the film moving briskly, adding some genuinely suspenseful sequences in between the mindless explosions and big action stuntwork. And there's also a refreshing light touch here and there, with some smartly offhanded gags and enjoyably corny plotting. Clearly, it's set up to be a franchise, as there are still all those other kids out there who need rescuing from the nasty Mogs. Bring it on.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 31.Jan.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall