In its opening moments, ‘9’ is moody, mysterious and beautifully dark. It’s everything you would expect from a Tim Burton production under
the direction of an animator (Shane Acker) who worked on ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.’
Too bad, the characters have to open their clothy little mouths. As soon as they do, ‘9’ devolves into an utterly bland and forgettable film.
‘9’ tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world, now ruled by evil machines gone rogue. 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) awakens in the middle of
this nightmare, and soon meets up with fellow sack-sewn inhabitants, also numbered and also trying to survive the fallout.
‘9’ originated as a short film by Acker, and it shows. The screenplay is bloated to accommodate a much longer running time. We get a plot
that sputters along without ever revealing anything truly noteworthy, and an excess of repetitive action sequences.
But what truly sinks ‘9’ is its complete disinterest in character development. Dialog is as bland as it comes, rife with dull exposition and
clichéd action exclamations. There isn’t a shred of wit to be found here.
It becomes clear as the film goes along that Acker and company are really only interested in the visuals. And while they are excellent both
technically and artistically, the film doesn’t have enough fun or enough plot to support them.
Even the score by Deborah Lurie feels detached and disinterested.
And although the cast is, on the whole, very talented, the material is too hollow to really allow them to elevate the film above what it is.
‘9’ also falls into the embarrassing trap of trying to salvage some emotional payoff way too late in the film. As you might imagine, without any
likeable characters, it falls a bit flat.
That’s not to say ‘9’ is a poor film by any stretch, but it just firmly places itself in the middle of the pack. Its stellar visuals and decent action
sequences are offset by repetition, bland characters and a forgettable plot.
Put up against the likes of this year’s best in animation, ‘9’ looks like it’s standing still. It lacks the character and heart of ‘Up,’ and can’t
match the beauty and invention of ‘Coraline.’ You’d be better served seeing either one of those films (or seeing them again, for that
matter) over ‘9.’
(out of four)
Directed by: Shane Acker
Written by: Pamela Pettler
Starring: Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Martin Landau,
Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly
Produced by: Tim Burton
Music by: Deborah Lurie
Released: September 9, 2009; 79 Minutes