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Number Four a pretty teen flick
Alex Pettyfer, left, and Teresa Palmer star in the suspense thriller "I Am Number Four." Pettyfer plays an alien with super powers being hunted down by another alien race. It's pretty, but not all that thrilling.

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‘I Am Number Four’

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Jake Abel, Callan McAuliffe and Teresa Palmer

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.

Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Bottom line: Decent sci fi for teens.

Is it enough for a movie to have a passable plot as long as the actors are really, really ridiculously good looking? "I Am Number Four" might be the prettiest movie of 2011, and lest you think that's a sexist soft lead, "prettiest" applies to both male and female stars alike.

Alex Pettyfer stars as John, who just wants to be a normal high school kid with a family. Too bad he's an alien refugee with superpowers.

John's home planet was destroyed by a race of beings called Mogadorians, so he and eight other kids with superpowers were sent into hiding on Earth, each one with a warrior guardian. Henri (Timothy Olyphant) is John's guardian, and the two of them, pretending to be father and son, move frequently to avoid the Mogadorians.

The Mogadorians now have designs to take over Earth, and the Mogadorian Commander (Kevin Durand) knows that those nine special kids are the only ones who can stop them. Killing John and the others is priority one, and apparently the Mogadorians have to kill them in numerical order.

After Number Three is killed, John-Number Four-knows he is next.

John and Henri move to Paradise, Ohio, where John's attempts to blend in fail completely. He quickly falls in love with stunning shutterbug Sarah (Dianna Agron), incurs the jealous wrath of high school quarterback Mark (Jake Abel), and befriends alien fanatic Sam (Callan McAuliffe).

Meanwhile, a mysterious blonde (Teresa Palmer), who wears leather, rides a souped-up motorcycle, and looks like a comic book heroine without much effort at all, is also tracking John.

It doesn't take long for the Mogadorians and the tough-as-nails blonde to track down John and Henri, leading up to the inevitable binge of computer-generated fighting.

Director D.J. Caruso ("Eagle Eye," "Disturbia") teamed up with producer Michael Bay ("Transformers," "Armageddon") for this young adult science fiction pic. If that duo sends shudders down your taste spine, relax a bit.

Compared to the rest of their work, "I Am Number Four" is one of the more restrained entries in either man's filmography (yes, I know that's not saying much). There are only a few cringe-worthy lines of dialogue, and the battle scenes don't escalate into Bay's usual absurdity.

The movie is rated PG-13, and that pretty much spells out the demographic. It's a bit too violent for PG but will seem a tad juvenile for most viewers over 17. It gives what producers believe teenagers want: attractive actors, lots of groovy CGI and little complexity.

For good or bad, the movie itself is generating less buzz than the personal lives of its stars. Agron and Pettyfer dated for a while and were apparently gossip site darlings. But they broke up two days after the movie premiered, sending teen girls into fits everywhere. That's more romantic drama than we see in the movie.

The worst thing about "I Am Number Four" is that it exists mostly to set up sequels. That looks like a big mistake after the movie failed to top the box office in its opening week.

Remember the movie "Jumper" from 2008? No one else does, either, partially because the filmmakers used the final 15 minutes of "Jumper" to set up "Jumper 2," driving the final nail into that mediocre movie's coffin. The latest projected release date for "Jumper 2" is 2013. It will likely never be made.

The ending of "I Am Number Four" reminds me far too much of "Jumper." Caruso and Bay might have doomed their own franchise by not just focusing on this movie.

Still, I don't think the movie deserves the beating it's taking from critics. It's entertaining, hits the heart a couple of times and even gives us a couple of laughs, thanks to McAuliffe.

It lacks soul and originality, but so does most Hollywood product these days, especially when those days are in February.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.