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"Nine" Review

I loved Chicago. LoveditloveditloveditLUVEDIT!!! I loved it as much as a heterosexual can without freaking out hockey fans at the union hall. So another Rob Marshall-directed Broadway musical film, this time stocked with a half-dozen Oscar winners and a lush production should've been a a slam dunk, right?

Well, unfortunately not.

Musicals live and die on their scores - see: The Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, any Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein show - and unlike Chicago, Nine just doesn't have the memorable melodies outside the punchlines of "Be Italian" or "Cinema Italiano." There simply aren't many hooks to latch onto during the songs, much less after the movie's over. The cast sing well enough - unsurprisingly Black Eyed Peas' Fergie is the strongest - but the material leaves them a little lost.

Another problem is that the big ensemble cast means that other than Guido and his wife, who get a pair of songs, everyone else gets just one a piece. Compare that to Chicago (again) where Billy, Velma, and Roxie get at least three songs each while still allowing Mama Morton and Mr. Cellophane their moments. In Nine, for the most part, the ladies sing their song (singular) and then fade into the background.

While Marshall captures the look and feel of mid-Sixties Italy, the musical numbers are almost too big, too overstuffed and filling every corner of the wide screen. But bigger doesn't always mean better as the featured players have to fight for attention. (This really came home during Fergie's number when there are about 14 other chorus dancers when 8-10 would've sufficed.)

Of the Holiday 2009 movies, I was more stoked to see this than Avatar and thought a lot of the negative reviews were just Chicago-haters getting their licks in. Nine isn't as bad the reviews would lead you to believe, but not good enough to give an unqualified recommendation for. Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard (as the suffering wife), and Penélope Cruz (as the saucy mistress) are fine as well as the supporting cast. The movie looks great. It's just that being big in scale - I described the trailer as making it look like "Chicago with a budget" - can't gussy up the thinness of the music.

Score: 7/10. See it on a big screen at the dollar show.


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