John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is an alien. A refugee hiding out on planet earth and on the run from a vicious rival species that destroyed his world, John moves from town to town with his only friend, Henri (Timothy Olyphant). a warrior from his planet who serves as his guardian and poses as his father. There are nine refugees on earth and the enemy race (called Mogadorians) is systematically tracking them down one by one. John, naturally, is Number Four and knows he's next on the list. After moving into a small town in Ohio, John meets Sam (Callan McAuliffe), his first true friend in years, and falls for Sarah (Dianna Agron). His relative happiness, however, is quickly unraveled with the Mogadorians show up and force a dynamic battle in which he is joined by Number Six (Teresa Palmer) to create an unstoppable team.
The big problem with "I Am Number Four" is readily apparent after the first two scenes. Scene one involves the nighttime attack and subsequent murder of a pre-adolescent alien (Number Two). Scene two shows John and his Florida buddies riding jet skis while a Kings of Leon track blares in the background. This movie has no identity. It is all at once a teen drama, a sci-fi thriller, and a horror/suspense film with a coming-of-age-in-the-Midwest undercurrent. Each scene seems to combat with the one before and the one after and no middle ground is ever established. I quite like the work of director DJ Caruso ("Disturbia") in many ways but he has an absolute mess on his hands here and the constant mix of genres is like drinking a Suicide, that mix of soda that you make at a pizza buffet when you're 10. It's awesome when you're a kid, not so much when you're 28. Is it "Twilight," "Star Trek," or "Hancock" because it can't be all three.
This convoluted mix really frustrates me, too, because, nerd that I am, there are some really cool sci-fi ideas on display here. It bums me out that these concepts are wasted on a movie that plays out like an episode of "One Tree Hill." Olyphant is solid even if he isn't given much to work with script-wise and Agron brings the charm she exhibits on "Glee" to the big screen with relative ease. I would also go so far as to say that the relationship between John and Sarah is, shockingly, not that bad. Plus, the soundtrack is killer, even if it is a bit too hip for its own good.
None of that is enough, however, to even come close to overshadow the nails-on-a-chalkboard acting of the rest of the cast. I'll stop short of calling Pettyfer a bad actor; he's just unseasoned. This is one of only nine credits to his name and obviously he's gotten where he is based on looks, not ability. In my mind, there's no question that he has some talent; it'll just be up to him (and the roles he takes) to determine if that talent can be brought out or not. McAuliffe, meanwhile, is as one-note as they come and Palmer is just...I mean, awful. Since this script was obviously not well written, perhaps I should give her the benefit of the doubt but seriously, her limited lines are by far the worst moments of the film, only challenged by any scene that involves any of the supporting/background characters from smalltown Ohio. Painful. I tried to find the good in "I Am Number Four" but there just wasn't enough to grasp hold of as I slipped further and further into the void of worthlessness.