Even standout performances from Daniel Day-Lewis as the stretched-out, indecent and creatively-stumped Guido Contini or Marion Cotillard as his beautiful, broken-hearted wife get buried under all of the extravaganza.
Rob Marshall, who directed the Oscar-winning "Chicago," has no grasp of this story, and his dull, repetitive and tiring music-video compositions (all of which are performed on the same stage intended to be Contini's film set) lack the required weight - both musically and lyrically - to add anything here. He's lucky his actors squeezed as much out of it as they did.
Occasionally, the film finds a sure foot during one of its many musical numbers - Fergie's "Be Italian" reaches several high-notes of choreography and song - but far too often they fall painfully flat (see Nicole Kidman and Judi Dench) or are wrung through cinematographer Dion Beebe's grainy black-and-white lens (see Cotillard's final number.)
Nine has zero sustainability - it's dress-up, play-along Fellini for the uninitiated. It's an Italian cinema appetizer that teases and swoons with its distinctive Euro-styled production, but it doesn't fill you up. Sooner or later, you need the real thing.