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9 Review

By Joe Lozito

Life's a Stitch


Well, we did it again. We humans created machines that proved to be the death of us. And, again ignoring Charlton Heston's oft-imitated cries, we maniacs...we blew it up. This time, however, humanity is not succeeded by a race of snarky chimps. This time, in Shane Acker's wondrously-imaginative "9", the few remaining lifeforms in the post-apocalyptic wasteland we've left behind are stitched together creations with big, binocular eyes and naivete to spare. They're named for the numerals that are handwritten on their backs. Each, to the film's credit, appears to have been created with a different personality (leader, bruiser, caretaker, etc) and each serves a very specific purpose to the story.

That story is written by Mr. Acker, with a screenplay by Pamela Pettler. Expanding his Academy Award-nominated animated short to feature length, Mr. Acker's "9" is long on visual whimsy but short on narrative drive; what the film has in beauty it lacks in story. Such as it is, the story revolves around #9 (voiced by Elijah Wood, in full hobbit-mode), one of the stitch-work creations that populate our decimated planet. After waking in a workshop, #9 explores the outdoors and happens upon others of his ilk (what a coincidence!). No sooner does he befriend the benevolent #2 (Martin Landau) than they are set upon by "The Beast", a lumbering patchwork of bones and noisiness. The Beast carries off #2 and sends #9 on his quest of recovery.

Along the way, #9 runs into #5 (John C. Reilly), the more dimwitted of the bunch, #7 (Jennifer Connelly), a post-feminist action-heroine with a penchant for dramatic rescues, and #1 (Christopher Plummer), the ominous leader with, seemingly, all the answers.

In his quest to rescue #2, #9 comes into contact with The Great Machine, a gigantic red eye that runs the mother of all assembly lines. The walking mechanical nightmares that emerge from the Machine's factory (and resemble the AT-STs from "Return of the Jedi" crossed with the Tripods from "War of the Worlds") caused the decline and fall of our civilization (and earn the film its PG-13 rating). #9 follows the typical hero's journey, making the requisite sacrifices along the way - none of which, through no fault of the glorious animation, hold much weight.

And it's that animation that truly propels "9" beyond your standard computer-generated fare. Mr. Acker has envisioned a world unlike others you've seen. Sure, the post-apocalyptic wasteland has been done to death (ironically) but the stitch-work creatures are an entirely original creation. It's no wonder that "9" sports the producing pedigree of Tim Burton (Timur Bekmambetov is also on board); #9 is a close cousin of Jack Skellington from Mr. Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas". The character is also, of course, a kind of steam-punk (or "stitch-punk" as Mr. Acker likes to say) version of "Pinocchio", with a dash of "WALL-E" for flavor. And at a lean 79 minutes, the numbers add up.

What did you think?

Movie title 9
Release year 2009
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Wondrously-imaginative, lightly-plotted fable about the stitch-work creations who outlive humanity in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
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