'Nine Lives': Film Review

Even 'Cat Fancy' subscribers will hate it.
8/5/2016

Kevin Spacey plays a neglectful dad whose spirit gets stuck in a housecat in Barry Sonnenfeld's family comedy, co-starring Jennifer Garner.

Moviegoers: Approach with caution any movie in which Christopher Walken, a source of eccentric charm in too many undeserving films, wields magic powers to fix men who can't redeem their own lives. In Click, he turned Adam Sandler into a stop-and-smell-the-roses family man with, of all things, a TV remote control; discerning viewers couldn't change the channel quickly enough. In Barry Sonnenfeld's feline-themed Nine Lives, a substantially worse film than that moneymaker, he humbles an arrogant businessman by turning him into a pussy (literally). Americans may wish they could pull a similar trick on a certain real-life (alleged) billionaire real-estate tycoon; the odds of that happening are only a little worse than those that they'll enjoy this dud.

In another puzzling (to say the least) big-screen career choice, Kevin Spacey stars as Tom Brand, the kind of tiny-hands Manhattan real estate developer who cares very, very much about the fact that his company's new headquarters will be the tallest building in North America. In the opening scenes, we learn that a new Chicago tower is going to be taller, then spend a good chunk of time listening to Tom bicker with one of his board members (Mark Consuelos' Ian Cox) about a plan to take his company public. This is a family movie about cats? Please, somebody tell the three separate teams of screenwriters credited with penning this thing.

With some hocus-pocus none of those screenwriters care about enough to explain, Tom is put into a coma and his spirit is transferred to the ugly cat he has just (grouchily) purchased for his daughter's birthday. Nobody knows about the transformation except Walken's pet-store owner, meaning that while the girl (Malina Weissman) and Tom's wife (Jennifer Garner) worry about Dad at home, we get to listen to Spacey's phone-it-in voiceover as Mister Fuzzypants tears the family home apart in an attempt to prove that he's really a human trapped in a cat's body.

The more convoluted of these antics involve a CGI cat, of course, suggesting Sonnenfeld and company don't understand that those who comb the internet for funny cat videos are entranced mainly by the idea that a real cat is doing all those silly things. (Admittedly, this is an outsider's theory.) A string of YouTube videos at the movie's start only serve to remind cat lovers that they could see the real thing, minus all the phony storytelling, at home for free.

Before letting them go home, Nine Lives gives viewers plenty of out-of-place ex-wife-hating barbs; groan-worthy feline puns; an apparent suicide attempt; some acting that an experienced director should never have allowed onto the screen; and an unusually gruesome color palette. And if you think it's going to fail to include a "Hang in There, Baby" joke, Sonnenfeld will beat that sight gag into the ground to make sure you don't miss it. Sometimes, though, letting go of that rope is the best thing a poor cat can do.

Distributor: Relativity EuropaCorp
Production company: EuropaCorp
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Cheryl Hines, Mark Consuelos, Malina Weissman, Christopher Walken
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenwriters: Matt Allen, Dan Antoniazzi, Gwyn Lurie, Ben Shiffrin, Caleb Wilson
Producers: Lisa Ellzey, Christophe Lambert
Executive producers: Mark Gao, Claude Leger, Gregory Ouanhon, Jonathan Vanger
Director of photography: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Production designer: Michael Wylie
Costume designer: Marylin Fitoussi
Editor: Don Zimmerman
Composers: Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine
Casting directors: Andrea Kenyon, Ronna Kress, Randi Wells

Rated PG, 86 minutes

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