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3 reviews, 14 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Doll Parts"
1 stars

As you will no doubt recall, last month saw the release of “District 9,” a science-fiction film that was an expansion of an acclaimed short subject and was presented under the aegis of a celebrated genre filmmaker, Peter Jackson, whose name was publicized to such a degree that many audience members may have gone into it without realizing that it was the short’s original creator, Neill Blomkamp, who was actually making his feature-length directorial debut. Seeing as how it turned out to be a surprise hit and one of the most acclaimed films of the summer season, Focus Features is presumably hoping and praying that lightning strikes twice with their new release “9”--although the timing is coincidental (it was scheduled for the 9/9/09 slot long before anyone even heard of “District 9”), it too is a film with a nona-based title that is an expansion of an acclaimed short subject being presented under the aegis of two celebrated genre filmmakers, Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, the mad Russian behind the trippy vampire films “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” and the stylish shoot-em-up “Wanted,” whose names are being publicized to such a degree that many potential audience members may go into it without realizing that it is the short’s original creator, Shane Acker, who is actually making his feature-length directorial debut. Unfortunately for Focus, not to mention anyone else who buys a ticket, the comparisons between “District 9” and “9” end there--while the former offered a fresh and inventive spin on material that might have seemed overly familiar in other hands, “9” is a murky and deadly dull programmer that promises all sorts of thought-provoking splendors but only winds up giving us an elongated version of “Peace on Earth,” that 1939 animated chestnut about adorable little animals learning about the follies of war and the cruelty of mankind that generations of kids suffered through while waiting for the next “Tom & Jerry” to come on.

Set in a world that has been devastated by war that we eventually discover was waged between mankind and the machines that eventually turned against them, “9” opens as a doll-like creature consisting of a burlap body with a 9 scrawled onto it, lenses for eyes and the voice of Elijah Wood suddenly comes to life and begins exploring its mystifying surroundings. Before long, he discovers that he is not alone when he stumbles upon an enclave of eight similar beings--1 (Christopher Plummer) is the aging leader who has convinced the others that hiding and living in fear is their only option, 2 (Martin Landau) is the more adventurous type who initially discovers 9 and rescues him from a mysterious attacker, 3 and 4 are a pair of mute researchers, 5 (John C. Reilly) is the loyal and kind repairman, 6 (Crispin Glover) is a trippy artist consumed with bizarre visions, 7 (Jennifer Connelly) is the de rigueur ass-kicking babe and 8 (Fred Tatasciore) is the giant brute who carries out 1’s orders without hesitation--and is informed that they were all designed by a scientist in the grim final days of the war as a way of allowing humanity to survive by infusing each with a piece of his personality. One of the reasons that he did this was because he felt a bit guilty because he helped to invent a mechanized brain in a project that was eventually taken over by a cruel dictator and, as you can probably guess, ended somewhat badly for all concerned. When 2 is taken captive by one of the mechanical monsters that still prowls the land, 9 and a couple of others go in search of him against 1’s orders and inadvertently restart the deadliest machine of the bunch, a giant spider-like thing with the apparent power to suck away the souls of those in his clutches. As it turns out, 9 appears to be evolved enough, as sentient burlap sacks go, to bring down the beast for good but must battle both it and the repressive influence of 1, who has seen so much devastation that he would rather die than fight.

As I recall, the original short was a dialogue-free tale in which the solo 9 came to life and played a cat-and-mouse game with one of the monsters that led to it essentially destroying itself--the impact came less from the story and more from the oddball visual style that used CGI animation technology to make it look as if it had been done in a retro stop-motion style. In expanding the short to feature length (which it barely does by clocking in at significantly less than 80 minutes), screenwriter Pam Pettler has fleshed things by bringing in the other dolls and having them talk and talk and talk about what happened in the past and what is happening now in order to give viewers more of a story to follow. The problem with that is that the story is one that will feel so familiar to genre fans that they will almost be able to recite the dialogue in tandem with the characters even on the first viewing. It is also amazingly turgid and lifeless to boot--imagine the first half of “WALL*E” without any of the wit, charm and energy and you sort of have “9” in a nutshell--and the characters are so dour and unengaging that it is virtually impossible to work up any rooting interest in them despite serving as the final hope of mankind, in a matter of speaking. As a result, this is a film that seems to have been made to repel all audiences--it is way too grim and creepy for little kids and far too soft-headed and juvenile for older viewers while fans of Burton and Bekmambetov will quickly discover that they seem to have exerted the same artistic influence on this project that Wes Craven apparently does on all those things that he “presents” whenever he wants to add a new wing to his house.

In the end, the only interesting thing about “9” is the same thing that made the original short intriguing in the first place--the unique visual style developed by Acker that could conceivably help it develop a following on the midnight movie circuit amongst viewers too tired or too stoned to notice or respond to anything else. Perhaps if he and Pettler (who worked on the scripts for such animated triumphs as “Monster House” and “The Corpse Bride,” had developed an entirely new story instead of trying to stretch out his earlier triumph--there are very few animated shorts out there that could survive 65-odd minutes of padding--he might have come up with something really interesting. Sadly, the resulting film is as cold, impersonal and soulless as the machines that it wants us to fear and by the time it finally comes to its woefully unsatisfying conclusion, most viewers will find themselves wishing that they had just said nein.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18373&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/09/09 00:05:23
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User Comments

4/16/16 Dr. Lao Visually stunning, poorly written story: basically a well polished turd 2 stars
12/04/11 Quigley Man, this could have been good. Great visuals, but lifeless characters and bland story 3 stars
9/22/10 bored mom Story is like the crap from a bad videogame. Graphics not special with LittleBigPlanet out. 3 stars
9/14/10 Jerome Cook you all suck. the critics suck too. this movie is great. assholes. 4 stars
4/02/10 Ionicera great visuals and premise but rushed plot and script. Bad ending. 3 stars
2/22/10 Stephen Love it, the storyline was weak but action and characters were awesome. 5 stars
1/22/10 D. Tousignant Great looking but the story was a total let down. felt no empathy for the characters 2 stars
1/14/10 Samantha P great looking movie, kind of creepy and scary. 4 stars
1/08/10 Sevarian Peter Sobczynski must have had a really bad day. It's a worthwhile film. 4 stars
9/19/09 Joseph F. Miranda I liked but wait for rental. Fascinating but NOT for under 12 yrs old. 3 stars
9/13/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Action bit deja vu. Hard to care about living drug-stash bags, minus drugs 2 stars
9/11/09 Bill Gibron film critic This makes me hate new filmmakers even more! 1 stars
9/10/09 Roy Smith I like, my movie buddy hated it so... 3 stars
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  09-Sep-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Dec-2009


  DVD: 29-Dec-2009

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