It is not quite clear why Nine was chosen for the big screen - a bland Broadway riff on Fellini's "8½," it produced no memorable songs and never found a niche in the heart of musical lovers. Yet Rob Marshall and his Weinstein financial backing seemed to believe than an act of cinematic alchemy could be achieved here. Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen.
Marshall wisely opted not to cannibalize the Fellini stylebook in the manner that he ripped off Bob Fosse for his film version of Chicago. But instead of Fellini's trademark surrealism, Marshall gives the audience self-indulgence. Taking a number of eye candy favorites with passable singing voices, Marshall gives them little to do but pose and pout their way through a skein of numbing and boring songs.
Granted, some schoolboy giggly fun can be found in watching Penelope Cruz wiggle about in fishnet stockings, or viewing Nicole Kidman try (and fail) to channel the "La Dolce Vita" vibe of Anita Ekberg, or observing a decidedly non-Italian Fergie belt out a musical mantra to "Be Italian." Recognizing that not everyone has an appetite for cheesecake, Marshall obligingly fills Kate Hudson's music video-worthy "Cinema Italiano" number with a small army of male models outfitted in handsomely tailored Italian suits.
And for those who really need a camp fix, perverse amusement can be generated with Judi Dench singing in a bogus French accent about the Folies Bergères or an elderly Sophia Loren attempting to croon about the moon.
But what's the point of such distractions when Nine offers little more than a tiresome journey into the world of a selfish, self-indulgent film director? Daniel Day-Lewis, sporting designer sunglasses and a Chico Marx accent, is no one's idea of the obsessed creative genius wrestling with inner demons and external factors. Instead, his irresponsibility and whining are closer in personality to another "8½"-inspired work - Woody Allen's sour Stardust Memories - than to the Fellini original.
And speaking of Fellini, a few fleeting shots of Roman landmarks is the closest this film comes to inhabiting an Italian spirit - its Broadway brass tunes and non-Italian cast (Loren is barely in the film) makes Nine feel as Italian as a cold slice of Sbarro pizza.
Perhaps in recognition of the deficit in entertainment value within the film, the DVD release overcompensates with too many featurettes. However, the breathy nature of these offerings - with titles such as "The Incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis" and "The Dancers of Nine" - only guarantees that more boredom is lurking in the Special Features section.
- - - - - - - -
From the "Director Rob Marshall" featurette:
From the "Behind the Look of Nine" featurette:
From the "Sofia Loren Remembers Cinecitta Studios" featurette:
From "The Women of Nine" featurette: