Dubious is the word which best describes the feeling when slotting the teen action adventure movie I Am Number Four into the DVD player to do a movie review. It is a feeling which is all but confirmed in the first few minutes of screen time as the movie is set up to look like a teen exploitation flick ready and raring to go and then there is a shift in tone and pace which like the main character introduces the viewer to the turmoil hidden beneath an expected surface.
This is a teen movie but it is a teen action, adventure, science fiction movie with actual chops. I Am Number Four is a solid movie from start to finish. Starring Alex Pettyfer (Tormented, Wild Child) and Dianna Agron (Glee, Burlesque) I Am Number Four walks a fine line between a plot and character driven movie.
Some of the characters and plot devices are standard teensploitation fare: new kid in town, nerd being picked on, quarterback bully, dazzling sensitive girl who used to be more shallow than she is now. The reason these devices and characters work is because they are part of our cinematic and literary tradition. The interest comes in the detailing of the characters and the story in which they are taking part.
It is not a spoiler to say that the main character, John Smith (Pettyfer), is an alien on the run. Being on the run has advantages and disadvantages one of the advantages is being the new kid in town but that of course is also a disadvantage. Being the new kid in town also means, if you are tall, blonde, cut and handsome, that the hot girl in town will be interested in you. That, that girl is a shutterbug with a fascination for Nikon metered 35mm film cameras is a bonus but the specific fascination for 35mm film is not explained but she seems to know about film cameras which in itself is an oddity these days.
At its heart this is a movie about belonging and trying to get along not just with your peers but also with the inevitable baggage heaped upon children by their parents. Many adults will not find it particularly enjoyable but they won’t run out on it either. It is worth the time to watch and for anyone from the ages of about 12 to 17 it is a thoroughly enjoyable movie.