I'm no purist when it comes to movie musicals. Two of the best films of Broadway shows are "" and "," and neither of those movies is particularly faithful to its source. The "Cabaret" movie is almost completely rewritten. But it works. And "Sweeney Todd" removed a large portion of 's score, albeit with his blessing. But the cuts, for the most part, were effective.
For me, "" didn't really work as a movie, but it did leave open the possibility that Marshall might develop an independent voice. "Nine" calls that possibility into serious question. So far, Marshall appears to be little more than a poor man's , without the vision or the bite. As I watched "Nine," I kept thinking about the stylistic debt that the movie owed to "," an infinitely superior film, and it made me wonder what Fosse could have done with "Nine." Perhaps all the people who knew how to create effective movie musicals are dead, but is Rob Marshall really the best we can do?
As is the custom with modern movie musicals, the creators have written a new song for the film. The goal here is usually to snag an Oscar nomination for Best Song. (Only songs written specifically for a movie are eligible, and the category is notoriously lacking in meaningful competition.) Sometimes these efforts yield relatively pleasant results, as with "" from the movie version of . Other times, we're subjected to the indignity of "Surprise, Surprise" from . For Les Misérables, we have "," a new song for Jean Valjean right after he has rescued young Cosette from the Thénardiers. I can certainly see what they were going for here: give Valjean a chance to show his softer side and establish his burgeoning fatherly feelings for Cosette. But the song feels formless and out of place with the rest of the score.
I had a chance to see a preview of the movie the week before Christmas and I found it to be a mixed bag at best. Director ("") doesn't appear to have much experience directing musicals, either on stage or for the screen. Then again, these days who does have a lot of experience directing movie musicals?