DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Nine (2009)

Not as good as Rob Marshall's explosive Chicago, but still a welcome movie musical.

Published on May 16, 2010

Nine (2009)

Nine (2009)

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren
Director: Rob Marshall
Studio: The Weinstein Company/Sony Pictures 34883 [5/4/10]
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Extras: 8 featurettes on the glamorous women, costumes, sets and design of Nine; Commentary with Rob Marshall and Producer John DeLuca; 3 music videos
Length: 119 minutes
Rating: ****

It’s interesting that neither in the movie nor in any of the extras is reference made to the original Broadway musical on which this based being a musical treatment of the autobiographical film by Federico Fellini, 8½.  Day-Lewis does a terrific job of portraying Fellini, as Guido Contini, and with such a lineup of gorgeous women and sexy choreography, how can you miss?  Though in spite of having been nominated for four Academy Awards and five Gold Globes, Nine fails to reach the heights of the previous dazzling Rob Marshall musical, Chicago. Never mind, anyone into Fellini’s films, things Italian and/or all-stops-out musical productions will love Nine. And with so few movie musicals anymore, fans should be more than thankful. (By the way, don’t confuse this Nine with 9 – the recent quirky animated film originally in the theaters at about the same time, and which we also reviewed.)

The Broadway musical was very successful, but there’s really not much of a story line, both it and the film seem to explain more of what’s going on with the Contini/Fellini character than the original ever did.  Or may that’s due to the intervening years during which I saw at least twice. Basically, Guidi/Ferderico is faced with a problem balancing the numerous beautiful women in his life, going back to his mother – the still-lovely Sophia Loren. There are two main sets on which the big choreographic numbers take place – one a finished version of the first one which is half-built. The dances are often intercut with normal dramatic scenes of Contini’s life, which works surprisingly well. The opening number, “Be Italian,” is not to be missed, especially if you’re into things Italian. Another great production is on the tune that pays homage to Italian films and their unique qualities, with Kate Hudson as the knock-out, knock-about featured singer and dancer. Dame Judi Dench does a surprising turn as a French cabaret entertainer, in a corset. But I have to admit the one that had my tongue hanging out like in those Warner Bros. cartoons was Penelope Cruz’ simmering number as Guido’s mistress.

The dark scenes in the film look just about as good as in Blu-ray transfers, and the complex and powerful musical score and lyrics come across beautifully in the standard Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. The lyrics are especially easy to understand – not standard for all musicals by any means.  Both the music and lyrics were by somebody named Maury Yeston, who I’d never heard of.  Odd he doesn’t get more credit – though aside from “Be Italian” his music doesn’t match that of Chicago.  The many extras are almost as much fun as the feature.

 – John Sunier

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