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Movie Reviews from a Christian Family Friendly Entertainment

Apparently 9 Is the Bleakest Number

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2009 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Apparently <i>9</i> Is the Bleakest Number

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.

Of course, one could argue that a valuable point is ultimately being made about the impersonal nature of technology—and how a human connection is the one that really matters. And while that message is probably more relevant than ever in the age of accumulating as many Facebook friends as possible, that moral has been delivered in a far more entertaining package than it is in 9. If anything, it's yet another reminder of the missed opportunity for making a thought-provoking piece of cinema in an unconventional skin.
 
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None.
  • Language/Profanity:  None.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:  9 is not your average family-friendly animated flick, and parents should strongly heed the film's PG-13 rating. In addition to a bleak depiction of a post-apocalyptic world, (moments of the war leading up to the current state are shown) there are some truly scary moments that involve brutal attacks (small knives, needles and shooting are involved). In some cases, body parts are simply lopped off, and the heroes are still alive after suffering such great abuse. Another frightening sequence involves the sucking out of the heroes' souls, an act that eventually renders them lifeless. Most of the action is bloodless, but it's no less gripping as there's significant carnage.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.