The Nines

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Nines Movie Poster Image
Befuddling sci-fi/thriller mix isn't for kids.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Infidelity, extreme drug use, drunk driving, and more. Plus, people act in underhanded ways, including betraying friends and co-workers.


A man slaps a woman, who berates him loudly in public; people argue (no hitting); a woman poisons a stranger so she can murder him.


A married woman comes on to, then later fools around with, her next-door neighbor (they remain clothed); there are lots of come-ons in their dialogue. A married couple kisses.


Frequent use of everything from "whore" to "s--t" to "f--k."


Billboards for the "show" that Gary, the TV actor, stars in; shots of network logos at the upfronts that Gavin attends.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The film starts with an actor on a substance-fueled bender. It winds down from there, though the final segment includes the criminal use of a tranquilizer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this confusing indie sci-fi/thriller may attract teens thanks to heartthrob lead Ryan Reynolds and Gilmore Girls alum Melissa McCarthy, viewers of all ages could end up more befuddled than entertained. It tackles mature themes -- sex, drugs, God, the universe -- and includes an underlying current of violence (one character is murdered). The main character goes on a massive drugs-and-drink fueled bender, and the dialogue is littered with expletives ("s--t," "f--k").

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What's the story?

THE NINES is a three-part movie featuring the same set of actors in different roles. In the first section, dubbed "The Prisoner," Ryan Reynolds is Gary, a TV star who goes on a huge drinking and drugging binge after his girlfriend breaks his heart. Under house arrest, his only link to the outside world is publicist Margaret (Melissa McCarthy), until he chats up the next-door neighbor, Sarah (Hope Davis), a new mom bored out of her mind. Gary becomes convinced the place is haunted by beings that whisper of the "nines" and that both Margaret and Sarah may be in on the whole mystery. In "Reality Television," Reynolds plays Gavin, the meticulous screenwriter who owns the house where Gary was staying in "The Prisoner." The segment follows Gavin as he sets about creating a TV series called Knowing that stars McCarthy, who plays herself. But a snaky TV exec, Susan (Davis), eventually scuttles his plans. The final segment, "Knowing," is a re-telling of Gavin's pilot script. Reynolds now plays Gabriel, a videogame designer who leaves his wife (McCarthy) and daughter (Elle Fanning) in their broken-down car, which is stuck on a remote trailhead, so he can get help. Instead, he runs into a hiker (Davis), who's not what she seems.

Is it any good?

There's surreal, and then there's absurd, and John August's feature-film directing debut definitely tends toward the latter. (August has written lots of movies, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.) A mishmash that pulls from wildly varying genres (it's a comedy! it's a thriller! no, it's a drama!), The Nines' three distinct segments are stitched together by a metaphysical motif that drowns its wit and smarts.

McCarthy and Davis are both total pros, but the film best showcases Reynolds, who proves adept at switching gears (he's best as Gavin; surprisingly, it's his take on Gary the TV actor that rings the most hollow). And while August deserves kudos for attempting a new cinematic recipe, The Nines is woefully half-baked. In the hands of a master of the surreal and offbeat -- Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, or even Michel Gondry -- it might have been a success. Instead, it's just frustratingly baffling. If only August could have picked one of his three tales and run with it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Gary, the TV star, loses it when he's dumped by his girlfriend. Does his reaction seem realistic? Understandable? Do actors like Gary seem a dime a dozen these days, especially considering how the tabloids report on the exploits of young stars? What do you think the consequences of Gary's behavior would be in real life? Families can also discuss how the film portrays the film and TV industry. Does it seem like a fraud? If so, how does the movie hint at this? Is the process by which new TV series are selected surprising? Does it yield good TV shows? If not, why?

Movie details

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