The plot of “Nine” gets swallowed whole by its bright colors, flashy costumes and horrifically bad songs. Supposedly, it tells the story of a washed-out-but-once-great director, Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will be Blood”). Contini is trying to make an epic Italian movie while avoiding the paparazzi and sorting out the tangled relationships with the women in his life. Really though, it seems like Day-Lewis just smokes a lot of cigarettes while all the women prance around in bejeweled lingerie.

“Nine”

at Quality 16 and Showcase
Weinstein Company

The film is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, which is an adaptation of Federico Fellini’s “8 ½.” Somewhere in the production process, a crucial element must have been lost, because “Nine” has no visible spark on screen. Unlike many other adapted musical films like “Chicago,” “Nine” doesn’t have much of a plot, the characters aren’t relatable or entertaining and the songs don’t make anyone want to get up and dance through the aisles of the theater.

The cast, however, is immensely talented. Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard (“Public Enemies”), Penélope Cruz (“Vicki Christina Barcelona”) and Judi Dench (“Quantum of Solace”) can all sing and act, but what they say and do in “Nine” still comes across as flat and boring. They need a script that provides enough room for their talent. It’s like when Meryl Streep decided to take her role in “Mamma Mia”: These actors can make sophisticated movies, there’s no need to try to throw something like “High School Musical” on the résumé.

Perhaps it would have helped if the songs they were forced to sing were actually catchy. Or, even if each song consisted of more than a lot of humming and wailing Guido’s name over and over again, conjuring up images of the characters from “Jersey Shore” rather than Day-Lewis’s character. Musicals should have songs that move and add to the plot, but the majority of the songs in “Nine” have nothing to do with what’s going on in the story.

Kate Hudson (“Bride Wars”), who plays a reporter in the film, sings about skinny ties, hip coffee bars and men wearing dark sunglasses in a song devoted to Italian style. Fellini’s films capture the very essence of what Hudson tries to sing about, but “Nine” has none of their effortless elegance. In “8 ½,” the characters glide across the scene impeccably dressed in black and white attire. “Nine,” by comparison, is chaotic and gaudy.

“Nine” tries to borrow a lot from “8 ½,” especially when a young Guido encounters the Saraghina (Fergie of Black Eyed Peas) — the scene is essentially the same as it was in the original film, except Fergie does a raunchy dance with a tambourine. Perhaps the problem is that many consider “8 ½” an artistic masterpiece, and “Nine” is not interested in preserving this reputation. Instead, “Nine” hopes to entertain. Director Rob Marshall’s (“Chicago”) occasional attempts to recreate pieces of “8 ½” are admirable, but lack tasteful freshness. He fails to embody the chic Italy of the 1960s, and instead ends up somewhere between a flamboyant Broadway production and a tacky Las Vegas show.

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