Nine, the movie based on the play Nine based on Fellini's movie 8 1/2, is supposed to be about inspiration, fame, and the art of making art. That's somewhat easy to miss with all the bumping and grinding.

Writer-director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an Italian legend, recognized by everyone and often called "Maestro." He's also a wreck: His last two movies were flops, he's set to start filming his ninth movie -- Italia -- in ten days despite not having written a word, and he has panic attacks and writer's block.

Then there are the women. Contini is surrounded by beautiful women, a temptation he often succumbs to. There's his long-suffering wife Luisa (Marillon Cotillard), his married mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), and the beautiful fashion reporter Stephanie (Kate Hudson, taking a role from romantic comedies to sing and dance here). Flashbacks also show Contini's mother (Sophia Loren) and the prostitute Saraghina (Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas). The only non-model-beauty is costume designer Lilli (Judy Dench) -- and even she gets a cabaret number.

The musical numbers in Nine are woven into the action, usually as Contini reflects on his past or fantasized about his present. These musical numbers are almost all burlesque -- plenty of corsets, lingerie, and the aforementioned bumping and grinding -- but they're more arousing than rousing. The songs are entertaining at the time but forogtten soon after.

There's not much to the story either. Daniel Day-Lewis downplays Contini, showing us little of the talent that made him such a legend and repeats his wastrel ways over and over. Most of the actresses are there as singing and dancing eye candy; the notable exception is Cotillard, who brings depth and dignity to the wife who knows about her husband's lies and finds it harder and harder to ignore them.

Director Rob Marshall seems to settle for the glamour of women rather than reveal anything about the artist (or, for that matter, Italy). This makes Nine feel superficial, with some nice visuals but not a whole lot more.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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