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"Be Italian!" comes the thundering command from one of the catchiest songs in Nine, and the movie version of this Broadway musical hit is undeniably solid on that point. It's drenched in cool cars, glamorous Italian threads, and cozy Roman neighborhoods, all circa 1962. That, you will note, is the vintage of Federico Fellini's classic film 8 ½, the source for both the stage show and Rob Marshall's frantic musical picture. As in the Fellini, the story revolves around film director Guido Contini, a glamorous public genius who's expected to begin shooting his expensive new movie in a few days. The only problem is, the maestro has no idea what his next film will be about, and he spirals through a week of mistresses, cigarettes, and robust fantasy as he avoids the subject. Marshall's approach to musicalizing this massive case of writer's block is to shunt the songs off into the giant studio where the sets for Guido's new movie have been built; the idea, presumably, is to frame them so the audience isn't perturbed by the old-movie convention of characters breaking into song in the middle of a scene. Fair enough, maybe, but did the numbers themselves have to be so aggressively vulgar? All of Guido's women have their turn to vocalize (and invariably writhe around in slutty underwear): Marion Cotillard plays his faultless wife, Penélope Cruz a hot-tempered mistress, Nicole Kidman his elegant star, Kate Hudson a horny journalist, Black Eyed Peas member Fergie the voluptuous beachside prostitute of Guido's childhood. And that's not the end of Guido's feminine carousel; Judi Dench plays his loyal costumer, and Sophia Loren lends her iconic stature to the role of Guido's mother. The man himself is played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who doesn't have the sheer movie-star presence of Mastroianni in 8 ½, even if he creates an intriguing visual figure--all bony intensity and nicotine jags. The film's empty flash is quickly numbing, and even fans of the original musical will likely find it a chore sorting through the glitz. On the upside, it may make you want to watch 8 ½ again. --Robert Horton Stills from Nine