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I Am Number Four: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

I Am Number Four (2011) movie poster I Am Number Four

Theatrical Release: February 18, 2011 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Director: D.J. Caruso / Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon (screenplay); Pittacus Lore (novel)

Cast: Alex Pettyfer (John Smith/Number 4/Daniel Jones), Timothy Olyphant (Henri), Teresa Palmer (Number 6), Dianna Agron (Sarah Hart), Callan McAuliffe (Sam Spellman), Kevin Durand (Mogadorian Commander), Jake Abel (Mark James), Garrett M. Brown (Principal Simms), Brian Howe (Frank), Jeff Hochendoner (Sheriff James), Patrick Sebes (Kevin), Greg Townley (Number 3), Reuben Langdon (Number 3's Guardian), Emily Wickersham (Nicole), Molly McGinnis (Receptionist), Andrew Owen (Bret), Charles Carroll (Sam's Stepdad), L. Derek Leonidoff (Mr. Berhman), Cooper Thornton (Sarah's Dad), Judith Hoag (Sarah's Mom), Jack Walz (Sarah's Brother)

Buy I Am Number Four from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • DVD • Blu-ray • Instant Video


I Am Number Four looks to do for aliens what The Twilight Saga has done for vampires and werewolves, making one a young hunk and setting his extraordinary adventure against the backdrop of relatable high school angst.

Strapping blonde protagonist Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) is not from our planet, but he blends in well enough here as an average teenager. When he attracts notice, he moves elsewhere with Henri (Timothy Olyphant), the greying guardian posing as his father. With relocation comes a new name, backstory, and hairstyle. Henri fiercely protects his young ward's identity, deleting any pictures of him he can find on the Internet. That's because another alien race is on the hunt for the nine teenaged individuals from Four's planet Lorien. Numbers one through three have been found and killed, not a comforting fact in light of the title.

Henri's (Timothy Olyphant) efforts to protect Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) are sometimes at odds with the teen alien's own interests. Photographer, classmate, and love interest Sarah (Dianna Agron) is happy to see John Smith at the Paradise Spring Scream carnival.

Number Four, assuming the name John Smith, and Henri make their new home in Paradise, Ohio, a small town where "John" insists on attending high school. There, he quickly meets some archetypal classmates. There is Sarah (Dianna Agron, Quinn Fabray on "Glee"),
the artsy independent girl fond of berets, cardigans, and, most of all, photography. There is Mark (Jake Abel), self-important sheriff's son and football team quarterback. And there is Sam (Callan McAuliffe), the quiet kid who Mark and his entourage torment. In no time at all, we've got a love interest, an antagonist, and a confidante.

That standard-issue high school stuff manifests in moonlit walks home, locker explosions, and a spring carnival haunted hayride. But there are more pressing matters for John Smith, because the hideous, humanity-hating Mogs, with their gills and tattooed bald heads, are zeroing in on him. At the same time, John is discovering his "legacies", powers that cause his palms to light up and perform telekinesis. The chase is on, as John, his new human allies, and fellow gifted anthropomorphic alien Number 6 (briefly-seen but third-billed Teresa Palmer) try to evade and destroy the forces against them.

Like Twilight, I Am Number Four is based on a young adult novel. But unlike that landmark teen film franchise, which came years after Stephenie Meyer's successful sales, this one sold its film rights two years before hitting bookstores. The book I Am Number Four is attributed to Pittacus Lore, a pen name for James Frey and protιgι Jobie Hughes. If Frey's name sounds familiar, it is because his 2003 memoir A Million Little Pieces became the center of controversy after Oprah Winfrey chose it for her famous Book Club in September 2005. The endorsement made it a #1 bestseller for nearly four months. Then, research revealed that Frey's inspirational tales of overcoming drug addiction and adversity in a rehab center were almost entirely fabricated, raising the wrath of Winfrey and sullying the names of Frey and publishers Doubleday and Anchor Books.

John (Alex Pettyfer) finds a valuable friend in Sam Spellman (Callan McAuliffe), whose father's mysterious disappearance not only provides a convenient connection but also gets him bullied at school. The Plenian teens are pursued by Mogadorians (Mogs for short), fanged, gilled aliens whose personalities are just as ugly as their faces. Kevin Durand, seen here, plays the race's unnamed commander.

Unhindered by Frey's baggage, Four spent nineteen weeks on The New York Times' Children's Chapter Book best sellers chart, many of them overlapping with this film's theatrical run this past winter. The adaptation's box office numbers, however, were nothing like Twilight's; to date, I Am Number Four's $55 million domestic gross and $144 M worldwide tally are a little more than one-fourth and one-third, respectively, of the first Twilight movie's corresponding numbers. Though the book was pitched as the first of a six-part series and its sequel will be released in August, it is unlikely that more films will be made unless this one makes a killing on home video.

I don't really see that happening. Directed by D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia), produced by the derided but often bankable Michael Bay, and scripted by the veteran action team of Miles Millar and Alfred Gough ("Smallville", Shanghai Noon) and TV producer Marti Noxon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", "Mad Men"), I Am Number Four is mediocre entertainment lacking its own voice. It's executed adequately enough, especially the familiar but fair high school parts.
The final act, placing otherworldly conflict in the foreground, doesn't work so well, its dark, noisy combat finding room for giant CGI beasts but little worth connecting with emotionally. If the action was exciting, even just visually, it could have made up for other weaknesses, but as is, it merely confirms the production as second-rate, packing less thrills, obsession-worthy characters and romantic sparks than the sparkling vampires and shirtless werewolves.

I Am Number Four is the first movie released under DreamWorks Pictures' 30-film, 5-year distribution deal with the Walt Disney Company, which sees it carrying Disney's decreasingly used Touchstone Pictures banner along with the DreamWorks brand Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen founded in 1994. Disney brings the movie to stores this week in a single-disc DVD, a single-disc Blu-ray, and, the subject of this review, a 3-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack.

I Am Number Four Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy combo pack from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 5.1 (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Three single-sided discs (BD-50, DVD-9, and DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($29.99), standalone Blu-ray ($39.99),
and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Having caught the majority of recent movies, I'm repeatedly shocked by how few films are using the 1.85:1 aspect ratio these days. I Am Number Four is one of them and kind of an unlikely one at that, in light of its genre. The Blu-ray's picture is about as flawless as any 1080p presentation could be considered. Its sharp, immaculate element dazzles throughout, even if it's definitely not going a contender for cinematography or visual effects Oscars. It is still a film boasting adequate production values and a less hyperactive hand than Bay-directed movies like Transformers. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also delights, providing an extremely lively and immersive mix, where sounds and music come from all directions and quite tastefully. If you can overlook the film's middling overall quality and the lack of any outstanding scenes, this would make good demo material.

The DVD's transfer is extremely comparable to the Blu-ray presentation, albeit obviously with fewer lines of resolution going to the slightly earthier 16:9-enhanced picture and less bits going to Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The results are noticeably less stunning than the BD, but still guaranteed to win over probably around 99.7% of the world's population.

Deleted from the film, Karen Allen's performance as Sam's mother is preserved only on Blu-ray. Teresa Palmer kicks butt in casual athletic wear in a pre-visualization video excerpted in the featurette "Becoming Number Six."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Years ago, a 3-disc set would have meant an absurd abundance of bonus features. In 2011, it just means three different ways to watch the movie, keeping you covered in multiple rooms, cars, computers, and portable devices.
I Am Number Four actually has a modest collection of extras.

First up is a Blu-ray-exclusive deleted scenes section (18:58), which holds six items, individually and collectively introduced by D.J. Caruso. Most notable among the lot is a scene that casts Karen Allen (of the first and latest Indiana Jones movies) as Sam's mother. There's also a flipped car in a Dairy Queen parking lot, two John and Henri "father/son" moments, and extended Mog/webmaster basement mayhem.

"Becoming Number Six" (11:44) centers on Australian actress Teresa Palmer's badass alien. Palmer discusses the character, her co-stars discuss her, and we also get footage from physical training, pre-visualization stunt fighting, and on-set B-roll. Oddly, this featurette appears to surpass Palmer's screentime in the film (which also makes her getting two of the four cover pics puzzling).

Timothy Olyphant laughs and looks at the camera in the Bloopers reel. Though it can't resist standard montage, the DVD's main menu (virtually identical to the Blu-ray's menu) opens looking just like Sarah's Strangers in Paradise photography website.

A bloopers reel (3:15) consists of many short outtakes, featuring cut-ups from the likes of Timothy Olyphant and Bernie Kosar the dog.

Inanely, the DVD drops the deleted scenes, making the once-standard extra now fetch a premium.

As usual for a Disney combo pack, the digital copies come on a DVD-ROM disc of their own. You get to choose from Windows Media files
for the computer (720 x 390) and portable devices (320 x 176) and a 1.5 GB iTunes format version. It looks like the threat of a 1-year redemption expiration date has been lifted.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD open with trailers for Real Steel, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and current ABC shows on DVD. There is no way to access these or other previews from the menus.

The Blu-ray's menu and DVD's main menu are cleverly modeled after Sarah's Strangers in Paradise photography website in the film, until they open up a standard video montage window. The DVD's scored, static additional menus also uphold the theme. The Blu-ray does not support bookmarks, but it does resume movie playback from the menu (after skipping through logos and previews).

The three discs are packaged in a standard Blu-ray case which includes a booklet which promotes Disney's adult titles on that format and supplies directions and a unique code for the digital copy. The case is topped by a cardboard slipcover that embosses its title, its border, and parts of its stars while adding liberal holographic effects on front and back.

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), a.k.a. Number 4, discovers and harnesses his inherited "legacy" of telekinetic glowing hands in "I Am Number Four."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I Am Number Four plays like a half-assed sci-fi Twilight knockoff, which seems to have been exactly what was wanted by James Frey's grad student ghostwriting project from which the film was born. The movie is acutely aware of what transcends in the Twilight movies, but it doesn't have the conviction or modest originality to inspire the same passion that Stephanie Meyer's series does in print and on film. At least it's decently involving, which alone puts it ahead of some of the underwhelming winter cinema season competition.

The Blu-ray offers exquisite picture and sound, and a lighter than usual supply of extras. Delivering the same DVD and Blu-ray sold separately, the combo pack should satisfy those wanting to enjoy the movie on multiple formats. If you're open to simple teen-oriented sci-fi in the vein of Twilight, you might like this movie.

Buy I Am Number Four from Amazon: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Blu-ray / Download

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Related Reviews:
New: The Roommate • Lemonade Mouth • Gnomeo & Juliet • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Dianna Agron: Glee: The Complete First Season • Glee: Season 2, Volume 1 • Glee: Encore • Burlesque
Jake Abel: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief | Callan McAuliffe: Flipped
Teresa Palmer: The Sorcerer's Apprentice • Bedtime Stories | Timothy Olyphant: The Crazies • Stop-Loss
Directed by D.J. Caruso: Eagle Eye • Disturbia | Produced by Michael Bay: Transformers • Friday the 13th • Armageddon
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse • Push • Kyle XY: The Complete First Season • Tron: Legacy • Race to Witch Mountain
Teen Wolf (Blu-ray) • Jumper | Written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar: Herbie: Fully Loaded

I Am Number Four Songs List (in order of use):

Kings of Leon - "Radioactive"
The Black Keys - "Tighten Up"
Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"
Rockwell - "Somebody's Watching Me",
The xx - "Shelter"
The Temper Trap - "Soldier On"
Jimmy Eat World - "Invented"
Beck - "Curfew"
Civil Twilight - "Letters from the Sky"
The Zac Brown Band feat. Alan Jackson - "As She's Walking Away"

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Reviewed May 23, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Touchstone Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Big Entertainment, Bay Films, and Touchstone Home Entertainment.
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