Quick Hits on I Am Number Four – DJ Caruso (2011)


-I wanted to like this, I really did. The concept is intriguing and had so much potential. But just like real teenagers who never do anything with their potential, this went nowhere fast.

-It does strike me that, actually, the least implausible thing about this movie is the alien factor. I can buy that aliens are hiding away on this planet to get away from evil fish-gilled, tatted aliens who overran their home planet. That trope is almost as old as film itself. What I can’t buy — what I can’t believe someone tried to sell — is Alex Pettyfer and Dianna Agron as outcasts. The film itself can’t even believe they tried to sell this, giving Agron’s Sarah the big-time jock ex-boyfriend and sticking her in cool kid parties.

-What ever happened to chemistry amongst actors? The only chemistry here comes because of a cute, protective dog, and we all know that dogs and babies is a big cheat. There is just not an ounce of it to be found anywhere else. Not a single spark, and that’s probably the biggest thing that hurt it as a movie. If there is chemistry and charm you can go back in your head later and edit out all of the bad dialogue or silly plot twists, but as a director, Caruso needed to pinpoint this right away (I think it was John Huston who said he did 90% of his directing during casting). You have to at least give the audience something to work with instead of just putting a hoodie on the hunk and giving the hot girl a weird hat and a camera and tell them Go, pretend to be freaks. It doesn’t work. It’s criminal. It’s job number 1. That’s the first thing they hammered into our head in film school: don’t roll a single frame until your cast is nailed.

-As I said, it’s quite a good concept for a movie franchise when you think about it strictly as a concept. But you have to strip it down to its bare, naked base and lose everything that it actually became. The execution on all levels was pure misery, from the dreadful script, the woeful acting and the insipid directing.

-It’s not the first time I’ve thought this about youth movies. I can remember thinking the same exact thing about Agent Cody Banks of all things, hoping Frankie Munoz might have a few chops in him, but that was an even big stinker than this. I Am Number Four merely wasn’t good.  Agent Cody Banks (and Big Far Liar while we’re at it) were actively, aggressively awful. I half guess it just means I’m old and can’t connect with what the kids are digging these days, but the kids don’t dig it either. Is this just going to be a terrible generation of filmmakers? I hesitate to claim it as my generation because these guys are all a few years older than I am, but we all did grow up on the same Jaws-Indy-Goonies-Die Hard progression of films as kids. But the problem with that is Lucas and Spielberg were mirroring their childhoods in a lot of those films, so when they’re used as inspiration they become secondhand regurgitation of the Lucas-Spielberg childhood instead of something wholly original.