UK Release Date: 19th August 2016
Runtime: 87 minutes
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer: Gwyn Lurie, Matt R Allen, Caleb Wilson, Daniel Antoniazzi, Ben Shiffrin
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, Robbie Amell, Malina Weissman, Cheryl Hines
Synopsis: A cold-hearted businessman becomes trapped in the body of the family cat and must change his ways and become a nicer person in order to return to his comatose human body.
Kevin Spacey is a cat. Christopher Walken is some sort of creepy pet owner who seems to have magical powers. And it’s all directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, best known for helming Men in Black. That sounds like the recipe for a fun, if silly, comedy movie. Unfortunately, comedy is in very short supply in Nine Lives, which is a tired, cheap movie that would be more at home as part of Nickelodeon’s daytime schedule than it is on the silver screen.
Tom Brand (Spacey) is an incredibly successful businessman building the biggest building in the northern hemisphere. His commitment to work means he has little time to spend with his wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). After he falls from roof of the building whilst holding a new cat he had bought from enigmatic shop owner Felix (Walken), Brand finds himself inside the body of the cat. Felix tells him he has a second chance to value his family in the form of their pet.
There’s a certain pleasant silliness to Nine Lives premise which means that, given a little effort, it could easily have been a very solid movie. Spacey’s work here could have been an amusing contrast to his sociopathic Frank Underwood in House of Cards. Instead, it is simply sad to watch as Spacey goes through the motions along with the rest of the talented cast. Nine Lives is an abject mess that feels as if it has been cobbled together by a group of people who couldn’t care less.
At the centre of the film’s problems are the fact that it has five credited writers. Too many cooks certainly make this a distinctly unpleasant broth, bereft of humour and veering wildly in terms of tone. The bloated creative team evidently couldn’t decide whether this was going to be a broad kiddie farce, a celebration of saccharine soppiness or a wry sideways look at the careers of Spacey and co-star Walken. The comedy just doesn’t work and the attempts at emotional beats fall entirely flat.
It doesn’t help that every single aspect of the film looks as cheap as a flat pack armchair made entirely out of tissue paper. Its visual quality is akin to the lowest of television budgets and the performances are amped up to a level that would not be out of place in a hideous daytime soap opera. No one is trying particularly hard here and one of the more convincing performers is in fact the CGI cat. I felt really bad for Jennifer Garner, who is a talented actor given nothing to do here but chase after a tennis ball on a stick and fall over a lot.
Nine Lives is desperately unimaginative and singularly fails to do what it says on the tin. It squanders a premise that could easily have been mined for enjoyable silliness, replacing that silliness with tedious fart gags and Kevin Spacey delivering lines as if he would rather be just about anywhere else. When the likes of Pixar and Disney are producing family-friendly movies with depth, sophistication and machine gun comedy, it’s a shame that something like Nine Lives occupies valuable multiplex space. This cat landed right on its arse.
Pop or Poop?
Kevin Spacey sleepwalks, Christopher Walken forces weirdness and Jennifer Gardner just looks sad. Nine Lives is a tedious travesty from start to finish. It looks so creaky that you half expect part of the set to fall down and reveal a spotty teenager operating the lighting rig and there isn’t really a whiff of a joke in the whole movie. All involved are capable of something far better.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.