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Rob Marshall's 'Nine': What did the critics think?

December 18, 2009 | 11:11 am


"Nine," the new film adaptation of the 1982 Broadway musical, arrives this weekend in movie theaters in L.A. and New York. Produced by Harvey Weinstein (among many others), it's a sleek cinematic package that has award-season prestige written all over it.

The movie boasts the highest density of Academy Award-winning talent than any other film this season: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Penelope Cruz. For a movie about moviemaking -- the plot is inspired by Fellini's "8 1/2" -- the casting alone qualifies as a triumph.   

Rob Marshall directed the film, no doubt hoping to revisit the success of his film version of the Broadway smash "Chicago" in 2002. An accomplished Broadway choreographer and director, Marshall has had an uneven cinematic career. The Oscar triumph of "Chicago" was followed by the critical disaster of "Memoirs of a Geisha" in 2005.

For "Nine," the play's composer Maury Yeston has written new numbers for the cast and has reworked some of the existing songs. 

The role of Guido Contini -- a blocked movie director whose personal life is falling apart -- was originated on Broadway by the late Raul Julia and was later played by Antonio Banderas in the 2003 Tony-winning revival. Banderas reportedly expressed some regret about not being cast in the movie version of the musical.

Judging from reviews this morning however, the actor might be thinking that he dodged a bullet. 

Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Nine" is "one of those films that couldn't look better on paper -- so many Oscar, Tony and Grammy winners involved that the production should have literally glittered with all that gold. But in the end, nothing adds up. Perhaps 'Zero' would have been a better name."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott also lambasted the film, writing that it strains to capture the feeling of artistic frenzy before descending "into vulgar chaos." He offered some praise for Day-Lewis and Cotillard, but concluded that the movie "dresses up its coarseness in bogus prestige, which both kills the fun and exposes an emptiness at the project’s heart — a fatal lack of inspiration."

Claudia Puig of USA Today called the film a "musical misfire." She wrote that "there's no substance beneath the gloss. For an homage to director Federico Fellini, who made such psychologically complex and poetic films, it's surprisingly vapid." As for Day-Lewis, she wrote that his "Italian accent works in speech, but when he sings, he sounds strangely like the Count from 'Sesame Street.' "

The Village Voice's Scott Foundas was especially vicious in his review, calling the movie "the celluloid equivalent of a 12-car pileup." He added that the movie is "an assault on the senses from every conceivable direction -- smash zooms, the ear-splitting eruption of something like music, the spectacle of a creature called Kate Hudson."

Lou Lumineck of the New York Post described the movie as a "tacky, all-star botch [that] more closely resembles a video catalog for Victoria’s Secret." He concluded his review by saying that "the jaw-droppingly awful 'Nine' is the worst Broadway-to- Hollywood transfer since 'The Producers' -- the cinematic equivalent of that movie's show 'Springtime for Hitler.' "

-- David Ng

Photo: a scene from "Nine." Credit: David James / The Weinstein Co.