A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sci-fi thriller based on the best-selling young adult novel by Pittacus Lore is heavy on suspense and action, some of which may be too intense for younger fans of Glee's Dianna Agron and up-and-coming "it" guy Alex Pettyfer. In addition to the movie's action/violence (which includes fights, weapons, and menacing killers), expect some swearing (including "s--t" and "a--hole"), scenes depicting high-school bullying (taunts, shoves, pranks), implied teen drinking, and a bit of kissing/flirty banter.
What's the story?
John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) isn't the golden boy high-schooler he appears to be. He's really number four, one of nine aliens who fled their planet and found safety on Earth -- but who are being hunted down, one by one and in sequence, by a team of assassins from their home. Number three has just been extinguished, which means John is next. He and his warrior-protector, Henry (Timothy Olyphant), have just abandoned Florida and are setting up in Paradise, Ohio. But try as he might, John can't keep a low profile, attracting the attention of town bullies whose ringleader is still in love with the mysterious pretty girl (Diana Agron) to whom John is also drawn. Once the Earthling is on John's heels, his extra-terrestrial tormentors will be, too.
Is it any good?
Judging by the special effects alone, I AM NUMBER FOUR is a successful, action-packed sci-fi adventure. The fight sequences are choreographed fairly thrillingly, the pacing skillful enough to create a few memorable jump-out-of-your-seat sequences in this Twilight-meets-Terminator production. But unlike Twilight, the scenes that aren't amped by CGI wizardry hold very little interest, hobbled by a befuddling back story -- why did John leave his planet, when, and how? -- and a woefully predictable plot.
The leader of a pack of stereotypical bullies is unsurprisingly a jock who's unsurprisingly hung up on a former cheerleader who, being the romantic lead, is unsurprisingly longing for a bigger life than her small town can offer and is unsurprisingly intrigued by the unsurprisingly mysterious newcomer. (Get the picture?) And where is the chemistry between John and Sarah? (They're no Edward and Bella.) We care so little about them as a couple that it doesn't really matter when the extra-terrestrial assassins show up for a battle royale that may or may not tear them -- and their town -- asunder.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it necessary to the story? Is it as scary as what you've seen in other movies? Why or why not?
What do you think of the bullying scenes? Do they seem realistic? What would the consequences for that kind of behavior be in real life?
Romances between two people who are very different -- as in one is human, the other isn't -- seem quite popular lately. Why do you think that is?
How does the movie compare to the book? Which do you like better?
- In theaters: February 18, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: May 24, 2011
- Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Timothy Olyphant
- Director: D.J. Caruso
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.