When Aliens blow shit up, I am normally there like a bear. When said Aliens are tanned blondes and sporting a six pack and a floppy fringe, a la Alex Pettyfer in I Am Number Four, you’d think I’d be completely in my element. Well…..not so much. See, even I do draw some limits.
Pettyfer plays John Smith, one of a handful of alien teenagers hiding out on Earth and being hunted down by bad guys. Numbers One to Three have already been killed, and he’s next on the list. Throw in some small town narrow-mindedness, a teen love interest, some freaky supernatural powers, explosions and a dog with a sore foot and you’ve still got an strangely unengaging movie. As one snappy critic said: “Number Four? More like a Number Two.” Oh, the Brits.
I’m not sure why it really just doesn’t work as a film. Perhaps it’s the movie’s star? At risk of sounding like a filthy old perv, Alex Pettyfer was distractingly cute aged 16 in his big screen debut Stormbreaker. Here, he’s grown into his frame, but sort of in all the wrong places. He’s not an attractive man – there’s a sense that there’s always a sneering fop just below his angular surface – and at 21 he is clearly too old for high school. (Yet more galling, in the book the character is 12). Diana Agron is 24 and is also pushing the credibility as a high schooler, yes even though she’s my favorite on Glee. Timmy Olyphant is Timmy Olyphant and I still can’t get over how handsome he is in real life.
So let’s talk about positive things instead; the locations. Paradise, Ohio, population 5,423…… is actually historic Vandergrifft, Pennsylvania, (thank you tax credits!) found just off Route 56, between North Apollo and Leechburg. Vandergrift is a model town designed in 1895 by Frederick Law Olmstead (he of New York Central Park fame). Scenes were filmed on Grant Avenue, called Grant Street in the movie, Deer Lakes Park (the fairground scene) and Franklin Regional School District (for, duh, the school scenes) was chosen over 50 other schools in the area, due to its proximity to nearby woods and its surrounding hills. The school was also chosen for its single-floor layout, wide hallways, and its football stadium in front. Teachers and recent graduates appear in the film, though a studio in nearby Monroeville was used for the apocalyptic explosion scenes at the end.