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Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and scary images
Released in Theaters: Sept. 9, 2009
Genre: Fantasy, Animated, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Runtime: 79 minutes
Directed by: Shane Acker; produced by Tim Burton
Cast: Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly, Fred Tatasciore, Alan Oppenheimer, Tom Kane, Helen Wilson

Sex/Nudity: None.  

Violence/Gore: There’s a lot of violence and disturbing images in this movie, including intense battles and chase scenes between the ragdoll creatures and robotic machines; characters getting the life force sucked out of them; brief images of dead humans (including a child) in a post-apocalyptic world of rubble and chaos; and a machine being beheaded. Weapons include spears, guns and chemical bombs (some of these are shown in flashback scenes).

Profanity: None.

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 13 and older who like Tim Burton movies or sci-fi animated movies.

Will Parents Like It?  It’s not for little ones, but “9” is darkly beautiful, with a message of hope.

Review: I’d like to peek inside Tim Burton and Shane Acker’s brains sometime (hypothetically speaking) and see where they get all of their ideas.

This is Acker’s first major film as a director and writer, although he’s done some shorts – including the 2005 Oscar-nominated short on which this movie is based. He was also an animator on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Tim Burton, of course, is the genius behind Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Edward Scissorhands, among others. Together, they make magic with 9, a darkly beautiful film with an inspiring message of hope and perseverance.

The story follows a group of small, ragdoll-type creatures created by a forward-thinking scientist who knew the end of the world was nigh. He made the creatures, numbered from “1” to “9,” to carry on after mankind is wiped out after a battle with robotic machines.

It begins with “9” (voiced by Elijah Wood) waking up in a dusty, abandoned room (with someone lying on the floor) and looking out on a post-apocalyptic world. The buildings are piles of rubble and the streets are littered with the remains of humanity (scattered toys, vehicles and even a few bodies, though brief). Upon seeing another creature like himself on the street below, “9” makes his way down to the street and follows the creature, “2” (voiced by Martin Landau), who eventually gets caught by a mechanical beast.

“9” soon learns that there are others like him, holed up in a building with “1” (Christopher Plummer) calling the shots. Others in the group include fiercely brave “7” (Jennifer Connelly), shy artist “6” (Crispin Glover), skittish “5” (John C. Reilly), and young twins “3” and “4”. Part of the group wants to find and kill the murderous machine and save “2,” while the others wish to hide from it. After “9” inadvertently fires up a much larger machine, the group has no choice but to destroy it.

Although it’s an animated film, this is not for kids younger than 13. It’s dark and disturbing, but it’s also beautiful and hopeful. The animation is amazingly detailed, from the zippers and stitches on the creatures to the dusty stained glass window in an abandoned cathedral. And the reason this movie is hopeful, despite the chaos, is because the creatures have souls and some of them are really resourceful, determined and creative. 9 is in the “never leave anyone behind” camp.

At just 79 minutes, the story flows along nicely and is never boring. For kids 13 and older, this is a great film and a must-see for Acker/Burton fans.

Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email jboursaw@charter.net.