9

Starring (voices): Elijah Wood, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover

Directed by Shane Acker

A visual spectacle that almost evenly divided viewers and critics alike, “9” is a movie that is adventurous and challenging for the eyes, but complacent in its simplistic storyline.

It begins with the death of a nameless Gepetto-like inventor, and in this case the Pinocchio is 9, a quiet, burlap sack with photo lenses for eyes.  As soon as he is aware of his existence, he becomes aware of a circular apparatus with strange writing on it.  To move the plot along more than make any sense, he packs the amulet and moves on to the post-apocalyptic world outside.

Along the way, he encounters several other burlap creations, each labelled from 1 through 9, along with several other scary creatures and one huge mechanical monster which controls them all.

What we find out about each of the characters and their role in saving humanity would fill 9 small thimbles.  But to emphasize this would be missing the point.  This movie, despite its PG-13 rating, was made for children.  Sure there are some scary looking beasts going about to and fro, but they were not too scary for my seven year old, and my 3 year old hardly noticed them at all.  She had fun rattling off the names of the characters (all numbers, 1 through 9) as they ran for their lives on the screen.  The animation, as good as it was, was clearly animation.

This is where the movie excels.  There is a visual style here that is at once dark and well-lighted.  Though things were supposed to be bleak, you never really get that sense of dread.  Showing dead citizens in almost the blink of an eye, the emphasis is delightfully on the fluidity of these burlap protagonists, named “stitchpunks” by the director Acker.

As for Acker, this movie comes about as a result of his college thesis on filmmaking at UCLA. The short film he created, featuring the characters 5, 9 and the cat like machine, created such a stir that it was nominated for an academy award.  Rightly so.  The world created and the animation style he presents is a breath of fresh air.  One wishes that he might have put it to better use by creating a story worthy of the look.  All told, the movie was exciting enough for my seven year old daughter to want to watch again the next day.  And I did not mind sitting through it with her.

***1/2 out of *****

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