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The 9th Life of Louis Drax: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax (2016) movie poster The 9th Life of Louis Drax

Theatrical Release: September 2, 2016 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Alexandre Aja / Writers: Liz Jensen (novel), Max Minghella (screenplay)

Cast: Jamie Dornan (Dr. Allan Pascal), Sarah Gadon (Natalie Drax), Aiden Longworth (Louis Drax), Oliver Platt (Dr. "Fat" Perez), Molly Parker (Dalton), Barbara Hershey (Violet Drax), Aaron Paul (Peter Drax, Sea Monster), Julian Wadham (Dr. Janek), Jane McGregor (Sophie), Terry Chen (Elliot)

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The 9th Life of Louis Drax is one of the stranger films you won't ever see. Adapted from the 2004 novel by the UK's Liz Jensen, Louis Drax opens like a family film with its young, titular protagonist (Aiden Longworth) describing just how accident-prone he is. He's been bit by spiders, poisoned, electrocuted, and pushed to the brink of death multiple times.
His latest experience is falling off a cliff into water. He is pronounced dead, but hours later startles a mortuary worker and is later upgraded to comatose.

The film jumps around to share the experiences of Louis (pronounced "Louie") with his pretty mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) and father Peter (Aaron Paul), a former boxer. Peter, who has been missing since Louis' cliff fall, is suspected of having pushed the boy. But there's more to the incident than initially meets the eye, as Louis' esteemed doctor Allan Pascal (Fifty Shades of Grey's Jamie Dornan) and the viewer both discover through the nonlinear progression.

There are some domestic disputes between Louis' parents and Louis also opens up to the therapist he calls Fat Perez (Oliver Platt). Meanwhile, threatening notes seemingly in the comatose boy's voice and addressed to his mother and his doctor begin turning up, confounding both medical professionals and the authorities (Molly Parker and Terry Chen) investigating the cliff push.

An accident-prone boy's coma sparks inexplicable occurrences for Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan), the doctor treating him in "The 9th Life of Louis Drax."

9th Life is adapted for the screen by Max Minghella, a young British actor better known for his work in films like The Social Network and The Ides of March than for being the son of the late writer-director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain). The younger Minghella, who also picks up only his second producing credit,
does not make the most inspiring of screenwriting debuts. But it's not material anyone could easily pull off with grace and tact.

Those two qualities are in short supply here with seasoned horror helmer Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, Mirrors, The Hills Have Eyes) directing. Louis Drax wants to be a procedural, a psychological thriller, a romance, an Odd Life of Timothy Green-type family fantasy, and a mystery. It succeeds at exactly zero of those tasks. Your interest is held, but your empathy and trust are soon and irrevocably lost. You might wonder just how bizarre the movie is willing to get, but you've probably figured that out once you have a disfigured cave-dwelling sea monster hanging around Louis and giving him wisdom. Naturally, there's a big twist and whether or not you see it coming, you won't hate it the way you do more contrived climactic bends that falter under scrutiny.

Despite a cinematically versed director and some semi-marketable talent, 9th Life did not get much of a theatrical release last September, failing to even open an official box office record. It came to Blu-ray and DVD this week, surely looking like a direct-to-video production for the few whose radars it even showed up on.

The 9th Life of Louis Drax: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Extras Not Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($19.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Nominal theatrical release or not, The 9th Life is still a polished and nicely-photographed production and Lionsgate's Blu-ray reflects that with a sharp, clean 2.39:1 presentation and a suitably lively 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack.

Screenwriter-producer Max Minghella shares what he likes about the story in a making-of short. Jellyfish swim around the head of Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) on The 9th Life of Louis Drax's Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only extra here is a short, untitled making-of featurette (2:46) which collects talking head comments from crew and cast, complemented by some clips from the film.

The disc opens with -- standard definition, for some reason -- trailers for American Pastoral, Aaron Paul's Come and Find Me, The Whole Truth, and Fathers & Daughters. These are strangely not accessible by menu and more expected, no trailer for The 9th Life of Louis Drax is included at all.

The menu loops a montage of clips with swimming jellyfish laid over them. The disc both supports bookmarks and resuming unfinished playback.

The full-color disc is joined by a Digital HD with UltraViolet insert inside the slipcovered keepcase.

"The 9th Life of Louis Drax" jumps around chronologically to show us former boxer Peter (Aaron Paul) and his life with Louis (Aiden Longworth).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The 9th Life of Louis Drax has such a difficult story to tell that you fault the filmmakers less for their failings and more for thinking they could pull it off. All over the place tonally and almost never with you on board, this is a movie whose disappointments should have been foreseeable on the page. Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers a respectable feature presentation but little else. Don't feel bad for letting this one stay in obscurity.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: American Pastoral The Girl on the Train The Eagle Huntress | Directed by Alexandre Aja: Horns Piranha
Jamie Dornan: The Fall: Series 1 Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season | Sarah Gadon: Indignation Cadet Kelly
Aaron Paul: Come and Find Me Need for Speed Eye in the Sky Central Intelligence Breaking Bad: Season 2
The Odd Life of Timothy Green Third Person Louder Than Bombs

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Reviewed February 10, 2017.



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