DVD Release Date:  December 29, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  September 9, 2009
Rating:  PG-13 (for violence and scary images)
Genre:  Science Fiction/Fantasy/Animation
Run Time:  79 min.
Director:  Shane Acker
Voices by:  Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly, Elijah Wood

When a movie feels way, way too long, and it's only 79 minutes, that's definitely not a good sign.

And that, unfortunately, is exactly how it feels when you're watching 9, a fascinating—albeit morose—idea that's lost in a jumble of bad dialogue and thinly developed characters.

Now if graded purely on aesthetics, 9 would certainly earn high marks for its inventive imagery. From the first frame, Tim Burton's distinctive yet creepy stylistic fingerprints are all over the place, even if it's technically not a Tim Burton film (he only served as the movie's producer).

But considering that an animated account of "the end of the world as we know it" was already done so well and winningly in last year's Wall·E, 9 just doesn't add anything new to the perilous conversation. Instead, it's merely a stringing together of disturbing imagery that actually provokes more shifting in your seat than anything resembling actual emotion—probably not the filmmakers' intention, I'm guessing.

Considering the celebrity talent attached to the project, you can't help but expect better. Given the lack of compelling lines that Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly and John C. Reilly have to work with, however, it's really no surprise that they all sound relatively bored for the duration. And once the story finally kick-starts into gear (it takes a while, trust me), it follows a far-too-predictable path to an all-too-familiar end. I mean if the point is to make an animated horror movie for adults, (and clearly this isn't meant for children, considering how utterly terrifying it is at times), then why not up the ante?

My guess is that 9 was probably long enough as the Oscar-nominated short conceived by director Shane Acker. Like many a movie that favors style over substance, there's a decent concept here, for sure, but not nearly enough for a feature-length film without significantly more at stake.

Instead, the rather threadbare storyline is this:  When a doll-sized creature (essentially a sock puppet stitched together with burlap and a pair of gardening gloves) who is simply referred to as 9 (voiced by Wood) wakes up one day, he discovers he's smack dab in a new world that's pretty threatening and, well, unfamiliar. Before 9 really has an opportunity to adjust to his new surroundings, he's fending off an attack from a robotic, feline-like beast who takes off with his one and only friend.

Before long, he realizes he's not alone when he discovers a few other numerically named beings who look just like him, including the shy, one-eyed 5 (Reilly) and 1 (Christopher Plummer) who for all practical purposes is this makeshift community's leader. 

In fact, 1's rule becomes a bit of an issue when 9 eventually wants to rescue his pal. Rather than risk the danger involved in venturing to the great unknown, 1 strongly encourages 9 to stay put. But it doesn't take the proverbial rocket scientist to figure out what 9 is going to do…

His decision to risk his life eventually keeps the plot moving, slowly moving, into even scarier territory. But the ensuing action sequences that follow do little, if anything, to advance the story. Simply put, it's Chinese water torture. With little in the way of context for what's happening, it's impossible to get emotionally invested, a crucial element for making any story, let alone a strange sci-fi confection like this, work.