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Case Number 18446: Small Claims Court

Buy $9.99 at Amazon


E1 Entertainment // 2008 // 78 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // March 4th, 2010

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The Charge

The meaning of life…on sale now!

The Case

A homeless guy asks a businessman for money for a cup of coffee; rebuffed, the homeless guy blows his brains out.

A young man who's not sure that he's ready to marry and settle down discovers tiny, elfin stoners living in his bedroom.

Another man meets his dream woman and is only too happy to accommodate her desire for him to shave down and become smooth.

A child comes to believe his piggy bank has feelings.

A lonely old man strikes up a friendship with a winged visitor.

In the Altman-slash-Anderson-esque $9.99, characters find and lose love, question their existence, and grapple with the meaning of life. They speak to angels, swim like dolphins, and party with miniaturized versions of their inner selves. They celebrate, they grieve, and—like the rest of us—try hard to make sure their next steps are the right ones.

It's sweetly off-kilter and a touch sentimental, and it's all done with stop-motion Claymation figures. The animation is very well done and a strong part of the film's appeal; still, it can be a little off-putting watching anatomically correct Davy and Goliath-like figures experiencing existential crises. It certainly helps to create a unique universe, but it also serves to keep the emotional response at a bit more of an arms length than it should be.

At times it's a bit frustrating; there's a feeling that $9.99 should be more alive and more bizarre than it is. The connections among the characters is a little too tangential to keep things fluid (they all live in the same apartment building), and the juxtaposing of stories grounded in reality with stories grounded in fantasy is occasionally cumbersome.

$9.99 was written by Etgar Keret (Wristcutters: A Love Story) and is based on his stories. It was directed by Tatia Rosenthal, who has a background as an animator. The voice work here is excellent, with Anthony LaPaglia (Lantana) and Geoffrey Rush (Shine) standouts as, respectively, the businessman and the homeless guy.

Extras consist of a pair of shorts also based on Keret stories and directed by Tatia Rosenthal, who helmed $9.99. "A Buck's Worth" is the same businessman and homeless guy vignette that opens $9.99, with Philip Baker Hall and Tom Noonan standing in for Rush and LaPaglia. "Crazy Glue" is a typically odd story of an unhappy marriage.

I admired and appreciated $9.99 more than I actually liked it. It's off-beat and interesting, but somehow misses being fascinating and memorable. Fans of Keret will likely go wild for this; others, maybe not so much.

The Verdict

Charming, but something of an acquired taste. Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: E1 Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Animation
• Cult
• Fantasy

Distinguishing Marks

• Short Films
• Trailer

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