Any film that has Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson and Fergie parading around and shaking their booties isn't unwatchable.
Nine — adapted from the Tony Award-winning 1982 musical by Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella — is a bit messy, though. The musical was based on Federico Fellini's 1963 classic film 8½ , about a vain, womanizing Italian film director who is stuck creatively.
In this Rob Marshall-directed musical, Daniel Day-Lewis takes over as Guido, made famous by Marcello Mastroianni in the Fellini film. Guido's wife, Luisa (Cotillard) is resigned to his philandering.
Cruz, a married woman, is his mistress. Kidman is an actress meant to remind you of 1960s Swedish sex kitten Anita Ekberg, and Hudson plays a Vogue reporter who flings herself at the director. Pop star Fergie is Saraghina, the village prostitute who gives a young Guido a peek at future sexual delights when she grinds through a number called Be Italian.
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As a musical, Nine always has had shortcomings. It's filled with glitz and glamour, so it's hard not to be a bit dazzled and overdazzled. Marshall uses the same tricks that he used in Chicago — quick cuts and close-ups — giving the film a frenetic drive. He mixes black-and-white and color, zooms in and out, but he doesn't invest much in his characters. There is a raffish charm to Day-Lewis' Guido, but there is no angst over his artistic predicament in the character. And many of the songs by Maury Yeston are overbaked and not particularly memorable. All of Guido's women, including his costume designer-confidante, played by Judi Dench, get their solos.
In the end, Nine is like a moving fashion spread. Sometimes there is a sparkly image that catches your eye, but most of the time you want to turn the pages faster.
Nine retails for $28.95; $38.96 on Blu-ray.