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Monday, August 1, 2011

"I Am Number Four"

This past weekend we saw I Am Number Four at my daughter's behest.

It is about a child from another planet who is sent to earth along with eight other children when their home planet is destroyed by murderous aliens from the planet Mogador (sounds sorta like Mordor, doesn't it?).

This child is named "John Smith" by his guardian. The movie makes a joke out of the lack of originality of his name, but in fact virtually every other aspect of the movie was equally unoriginal.

There was the obligatory discovers-his-superpowers scene, straight out of Superman or Spiderman.

Then there was the obligatory sticks-up-for-the-school-nerd-to-show-what-a-decent-guy-he-is scene. (Just once I want to see a superhero who uses his powers to torment the school nerd instead.)

This was followed by the obligatory beats-up-the-bullies-after-he-is-pushed-too-far scene, which was followed by the obligatory feels-bad-about-having-used-his-superpowers-to-do-that scene.

This is of course witnessed by the high school beauty, so that the obligatory romance-with-a-human can follow. When this is followed by the obligatory she-discovers-his-superpowers scene, she in fact does not seem all that surprised.

Who knows, maybe this by-the-numbers movie was so predictable that she could just see it coming.

When another Lorien -- a beautiful girl -- appears at the end to help John Smith in the obligatory showdown-with-the-aliens scene, she announces, "I'm Number Six," in an Aussie accent. She is hotter than the main romantic interest, which leaves us feeling a little confused: wouldn't it be more appropriate for John Smith to have a romance with the other Lorien?

But we know that a romance between the two Loriens will not happen because John Smith has been told early on by his mentor that Loriens mate for life -- proving that this movie was made to appeal to a young female audience as much as a young male one.

Even the Mogadorians look pretty much human, as ugly as they are. They tend to run around 6' 8," look as if they weigh 270 pounds, and have preternaturally deep voices, which is only appropriate for villains, even alien ones. They also have scars on their faces, horrible teeth, and no eyebrows, just to emphasize their villainy. Of course, even with all that they are still identifiably Caucasian -- as bad guys should be. It's good to know that political correctness prevails even on other planets.

Actually, come to think of it, there wasn't a single black, Hispanic, or Asian in the entire movie. (Where's Jesse Jackson when you need him?) I guess the movie makers considered it confusing enough to have all those aliens from other planets without mucking up the cast even further with, you know, human aliens.

One of the more humorous aspects of the movie is the obvious age of the actors who are playing high school students. The main romantic interest is played by Dianna Agron, who was 24 -- a more appropriate age for a teacher -- when the movie was shot. Given all the recent publicity about teachers being prosecuted for pursuing romances with students, are the movie makers setting a good example here?

It's probably okay in Dianna's case, though, since John Smith is played by Alex Pettyfer, who was 20 when the movie was shot. (He wasn't quite as dumb -- he only got held back three grades.) So, while the movie may implicitly advocate plagiarism, at least it stops short of recommending statutory rape.

Timothy Olyphant, star of the FX series Justified, manages to look only slightly embarrassed that he is here. 

I Am Number Four is based on a book by James Frey, of A Million Little Pieces infamy. Which makes perfect sense. Anyone who would write an ostensible autobiography fashioned from whole cloth would certainly not hesitate to cobble together such a derivative work of fiction.

That's the last time I ever let my daughter choose what we watch.

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