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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  Despite cast, 'Nine' is a bore
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Monday, December 21,2009

Despite cast, 'Nine' is a bore

By Roger Moore

How can a movie starring six Academy Award-winning actors be such a bore?

With "Nine," the director of "Chicago" manages this feat. But whatever blame one might be tempted to lay on Rob Marshall, the fault, it seems to me, lies in the play. If you've ever seen this navel-gazing stage musical inspired by Fellini's navel gazing filmmaker-in-crisis film, "8 1/2," you know this was would be tough going.

Casting mostly non-singers to do the clever but forgettable songs doesn't help – even if they are Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson and (at least she has musical experience) Nicole Kidman. Filming most of it on a soundstage made up to look like the theater of the hero's mind just preserves "Nine" in amber.

In 1960s Rome, Guido (Day-Lewis) is a filmmaking legend 10 days away from shooting the movie he hopes will end a run of flops. But he has no script. He is blocked. He can be cryptic and playful at press conferences, But only an escape to a distant spa will help — except for the fact that his troubles chase him there.

His wife (Cotillard, of "La Vie en Rose") used to be his muse. His dim-but-sexy mistress (Penelope Cruz) is no help. His leading lady (Nicole Kidman) is pressing him. He's tempted by the sexy Vogue reporter (Hudson). His costume designer (Judi Dench, terrific) is his scold.

"The world sees Rome the way you invented it," she purrs. "You're a world class liar. Go out there and lie for Italy!"

So much stress, so many women tugging at his suave coat sleeves. He complains to the ghost of his dead mama (Loren), to his producer, to a priest and even a cardinal.

And he sings. Not a great idea, even for one of the screen's great actors.

Thank God for Fergie. The sultry siren plays the small-town floozie who exposed young Guido to the mysteries of female flesh (in a flashback), and she flat out tears up the show-stopper "Be Italian." Dench acquits herself well in a Marlene Dietrich-esque memory song, "Folies Bergere." Cruz vamps temptingly, Hudson rips up a go-go number ("Cinema Italiano") and Kidman doesn't embarrass herself on a ballad.

But the women are here to wear bustiers and pose, with only rare moments suggesting each one's humanity. Day-Lewis smokes a lot, looks good in retro sunglasses and suits. He makes little impression beyond the first one.

There's little humor, no heart and precious little "angst" to his predicament — luring and using women. But then, nobody will be crying at "Tiger Woods: The Opera," either.

Nine

2 stars (out of 4)

Cast: Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard

Director: Rob Marshall

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Industry rating: PG-13 for sexual content and smoking

Roger Moore writes for the Orlando Sentinel. Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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