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I picked this up on a whim. I was attracted by the title and the poster. What's the number all about? I wondered. And I also wondered about the ragdoll dude holding up a lightbulb on a rod against a backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. Wait a minute. Did somebody say "post-apocalyptic?"

9 is a CGI-animated film directed by Shane Ackner and produced by Tim Burton. The story is that some time ago, a war between humans and machines (hmm, sounds familiar) erupts, resulting in all sentient life -- machines and humans alike -- being almost entirely wiped out, leaving only nine little mechanical ragdolls and one cat beast (an A.I. wearing a cat skull for a head). 9 is the last ragdoll to be made and is also the main protagonist in the movie. He wakes up to find the body of his scientist-maker dead on the floor and a terrifying post-apocalyptic world waiting just outside the window. Later, he meets 2 and the rest of the numbered ragdolls and through a series of adventures and misadventures, the ragdolls discover what their life is for and save the world while at it.

9 has a stellar cast: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer.

WHY I LIKE IT

The animation is really, really good. Phenomenally good. The world inside 9 is just as detailed, just as visually stunning as any Pixar-produced animated film, except that with no predecessor (I mean really, where else can you find a movie with ragdolls for heroes?), 9 shows more vision and imagination than any I've ever seen.

While the post-apocalyptic world is a cliche, what sets the film apart is its character design. One character wears a candle for a hat, another has a zipper up his body (to store things in). These ragdoll characters spend much of the film looking for spare parts, making things, as if the entire sequence of how the scientist made 9 in the beginning of the film wasn't enough. It's fascinating.

As expected from a stellar cast, voice acting is good. I love Christopher Plummer's voice and his stiff British accent gives his character just that touch of bluster and arrogance that are his character's essential traits.

WHY I DON'T LIKE IT

The story does not really hold. In the beginning, 9 promises to be different and poses a lot of interesting questions: What are they? Who made them? What is their purpose? The film does eventually answer all these but on such a convenient and moralizing note that I couldn't help but cringe at the utter waste.

While the voice acting is good, the actors are sometimes left to languish in wordless expressions of surprise and shock, or worse, strained sounds. It's distracting.

THE VERDICT

9 is an imaginative film with real vision in terms of animation but little plot to hold your imagination.

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