'9' is definitely not a 10

There are two movies coming out this fall using the number nine as a title. The first one, out today, uses it as a numeric symbol, while the second one, a musical that stars Daniel Day-Lewis and a bunch of Oscar-winning women, spells it out. But I believe the latter film will be friendlier to kids, even though the former is a CGI-animated feature starring cute, little characters.

I've been wondering who the audience is for "9." I hardly think a morose, post-apocalyptic thriller where scary creatures loom throughout, detached human body parts are used as props and various characters die during the movie is going to appeal to the kiddies. In fact, it may give them nightmares from now until you take them to see the coming, 3-D-enhanced re-release of the "Toy Story" movies. Perhaps "9" is for young fans of bleak, graphic novels or for adults who appreciate the vividness of dark/stark art. Or, maybe, this appeals just to weed smokers.

Set in a dystopian future where humanity has been killed off thanks to machines rising up and taking over the world (isn't that always the case?), a crew of small creations (known as "stitchpunks," but they look more like ghetto Beanie Babies) are the only ones left. While many of them are hiding out in the wasteland, #9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) is the last to rise to life.

He eventually meets up with his fellow rag dolls, including dominating leader #1 (Christopher Plummer), one-eyed #5 (John C. Reilly), high-flying warrior #7 (Jennifer Connelly) and oddball scribbler #6 (Crispin Glover, still acting nutty even when you hear only his voice). Brave #9 is all-too-ready to go out and take down the beastly, catlike machine that is out there preying on his people. But he also, unfortunately, wakes up one giant machine that goes on a rampage, forcing #9 and the rest to stop cowering in the shadows and fend for themselves.

Tim Burton and "Wanted" director Timur Bekmambetov serve as producers, so you can already visualize the macabre, chaotically anarchic nature that is spread throughout this movie. But while director Shane Acker, who is expanding on a short he did back in 2005, comes up with visuals and sequences that are both dark and dazzling, the story, mostly supplied by "Monster House" screenwriter Pamela Pettler, is more off than offbeat. Though the script throws in convenient, albeit far-fetched monkey wrenches to keep the movie swimming with tension, the movie (clocking in at 79 minutes) doesn't feel like the epic, adventurous tale of bravery and rediscovery the trailer made it out to be. But, then again, when you have a movie where the only folk who are supposed to rebuild society are ghetto Beanie Babies, it's quite difficult to get into it like you should.

At this point, I don't know what's more grim about "9": its unpleasant yet familiar view of the future, or the fact that it's searching for an audience that may not exist.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer