Review in a Hurry: Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) delivers another Broadway musical to the cineplex—but with Nine already an American remake of the classic Federico Fellini film 8 1/2, something feels lost in translation. On the upside, Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and even Fergie have never looked better. That's enough, right?
The Bigger Picture: Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini, a Fellini-like filmmaker who loves too many women (seven in all). Although his films are always about those gorgeous beauties, he can't seem to find enough inspiration to start his next project, even as production looms in the gorgeous vistas of Rome.
In the great tradition of musicals, the story is barely a story. All DDL does is talk to each of his lovely leading ladies and every five minutes or so, a grand dance number starring one of the aforementioned divas commences. The best predance moments are with the always-exceptional Judi Dench. Who knew she could be so funny, here playing a costume designer who takes every opportunity to belittle her boss.
Marshall really scored with the women of Nine, which also include Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren, who makes a brief appearance as Guido's mother. But as superbly cast as these women are, Day-Lewis is shockingly not. He's sporting an Italian accent that can sound more Middle Eastern—a voice that is better waxing poetic about milkshakes than holding a tune.
Regardless, this should be a showstopping good time (and occasionally it is), but without a real driving force to propel Guido forward, Nine feels less like a musical and more like a series of randomly arranged dance-offs. And even that would be OK if the songs were top-notch. But other than Fergie's rendition of "Be Italian," most of the other tracks don't leave an impression.
A shame, because the cast is certainly up for a good time. Cruz, playing Guido's mistress, is one of the sexiest women in film—and she can sing and dance. But the song "Casa Sulitaria" feels a bit goofy and even worse—dated. Faring better are Cotillard as Guido's wife and Hudson as an American journalist gone gaga for Italian films, doing the infectious ditty "Cinema Italiano."
Chicago showed that Rob Marshall can shoot a dance sequence, but with Nine it's hard to tell. Fergie plays Guido's boyhood crush, seducing him with only a tambourine, sand...and an army of backup dancers. The choreography on "Be Italian" (by Marshall) impresses, but the editing nearly kills it. Often, instead of staying on a wider shot to see the spectacular moves, the crosscutting ends with erratic close-ups of the dancers faces.
After the amazing energy that was Chicago, Nine is less successful. But sometimes a strong ensemble is all that's needed for ol' razzle-dazzle.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Even though Nine has the production value to justify paying to seeing it on the big screen, the nonconnected thrills will probably work better at home (in chunks). Just cue up those dance numbers, turn down the sound and enjoy!
There's so much else to see, too—have a look in our Totally New Releases gallery!