Not to be confused with Rob Marshall's upcoming musical Nine (or, for that matter, with the summer hit District 9), this single-digit offering is actually director Shane Acker's expansion of his own Oscar-nominated short film from 2005. That animated work ran approximately 12 minutes; this new version clocks in at 80 minutes, shorter than most theatrical releases but still thin enough to outstay its welcome by at least a quarter-hour. Set in a post-apocalyptic period caused by a gruesome battle between humans and the machines that ended up turning against them (sorry, no Arnold Schwarzenneger cameo this time around), the plot centers around a doll-like creature (voiced by Elijah Wood) identified by the "9" that's marked on his back. 9 discovers that humanity has been completely eradicated and fearsome mechanical monsters roam the earth, but he has no idea of his own origins or what his future might hold. He meets other rag dolls like himself -- a warrior woman (Jennifer Connelly), a kindly scientist (Martin Landau), a scheming elder (Christopher Plummer), a timid sidekick (John C. Reilly), and more -- and they argue as to whether they should continue to live in hiding or confront the enemy head-on. It's easy to see why Tim Burton signed on as a producer: The staggering visual scheme is dark, dank and dangerous, and characters often meet unexpected -- and undesirable -- fates (as the PG-13 rating suggests, this one clearly isn't for the wee ones). But these attributes, atypical for animation, are seriously undermined by a pedestrian end-of-the-world storyline and by characters with zero personality.
MY ONE AND ONLY
Actor George Hamilton, known more for his perpetual tan and his playboy image than for his film canon, lands executive producer credit on My One and Only, and that's because this time, it's personal. In short, the picture purports to be loosely based on Hamilton's life just as he was on the verge of making it in Hollywood, but that the movie never provides us with a believable bridge between "then" and "now" is just one of the problems that plague it. Unfolding in 1953, the film finds the teenage George (Logan Lerman) and his slightly older brother Robbie (Mark Rendall) being yanked out of their New York home by their Southern belle mom Ann (Renee Zellweger), who's tired of the philandering ways of her bandleader husband Dan (Kevin Bacon). Ann sets off on a cross-country jaunt to find a (wealthy) Mr. Right to marry her, but for the most part, she only meets losers: a former beau (Steven Weber) now facing financial ruin; a humorless military man (Chris Noth) who will brook no opposition; a paint-store magnate (an amusingly cast David Koechner) with hidden issues; and so on. Zellweger, in the sort of role Melanie Griffith would have been hand-delivered about a decade ago, isn't bad, but she's overshadowed by practically everyone else in the cast, starting with the two actors cast as her witty, wisecracking sons. Scripter Charlie Peters falters when it comes to the big picture -- the film is too episodic to build much steam, and the ending doesn't provide the intended uplift -- but he scores with the heated confrontations that pop up throughout the piece. Whether it's Ann arguing with George, with Dan, or with just about anyone else who crosses her path, these head-to-heads are juicy enough to repeatedly lift the movie out of its dusty designation as just one more coming of age yarn.
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