Director Rob Marshall tries to recapture his Chicago magic with Nine, a hyperactive musical with elaborate song-and-dance explosions, energetic performances and all the restraint and measured judgment of Tiger Woods at Perkins.
You don’t watch the movie so much as get a drunken, sloppy lap dance from it. The psychosexual numbers are as gaudily repulsive as they are entrancing.
You get an admirably limber Penélope Cruz making you very much aware of her Golden Globes in one scene, not quite sure whether to cringe or stare or dig for a coin slot in which to pop in another quarter. You get mildly grotesque septuagenarians Judi Dench and Sophia Loren gussied up in gaudy mime-vamp makeup, shaking it like a daguerrotype picture. And Fergie uglying it up in the role she was born to play — a revolting whore who scarred the main character’s psyche as a boy.
In the lead is automatic Oscar nomination Daniel Day-Lewis, as Guido, an Italian filmmaker suffering from director’s block. He juggles a wife (Marion Cotillard), a mistress (Cruz), a muse (Nicole Kidman) and a fantasy (Kate Hudson) as he lives the high life and tries to deceive both himself and his demanding public about the fact that his creative reservoir is drained. It’s a remake of 8 1/2, a Fellini classic that’s much, much MUCH better than this one. But for all the story consistency, Nine may have well as been based on an episode of Fraggle Rock.
As a storyteller, Marshall has regained his razzle-dazzle from Chicago but also is still stuck with the incoherence he suffered in Memoirs of a Geisha. His movie is the artistic equivalent of mud-wrestling: hot, messy and embarrassing, but always more fun than it has any right to be.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Fergie and Sophia Loren. Written by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella, based on the Broadway musical by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston, which itself was an adaptation of the Italian musical by Mario Fratti. Directed by Rob Marshall. Rated PG-13. 110 minutes.
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