NINE LIVES (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for Thematic Elements, Language and some Rude Humor

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Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

Written by: Gwyn Lurie, Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, Daniel Antoniazzi & Ben Shiffrin

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Cheryl Hines, Malina Weissman, Christopher Walken & Mark Consuelos

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t have high expectations for NINE LIVES. In the months leading up to the film’s release, I frequently joked about how this movie looked like one of the fake trailers in SOUTH PARK. I mean, just picture the narration: “Kevin Spacey was an Academy Award winning actor, but now he’s….a cat?!? He’s about to find out that being a cat is harder than it looks. Kevin Spacey has…NINE LIVES! Rated PG!” That sounds entirely accurate and it makes you wonder how/why this movie was made. Did Spacey owe money to the mafia and this was the quickest way to pay it back? Was his family kidnapped and held for a ransom that included 15 minutes of on-camera screen time and an afternoon in a sound booth to record his lines? The origins of NINE LIVES may go down as one of cinema’s greatest mysteries, but one thing is for sure: NINE LIVES is a terrible, woefully inept disaster.

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Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is a workaholic businessman with no time for his neglected wife Lara (Jennifer Garner), ignored daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman), and co-worker son David (Robbie Amell). Tom is far too busy with constructing the tallest building in the northern hemisphere to make any time for his family. That all changes when he visits a strange pet shop to reluctantly buy a cat for his daughter’s birthday and through an oddly dark twist of fate, Tom finds himself stuck in cat’s body. Going by the name of Mr. Fuzzypants, Tom must get closer to his family by being a lovable cat and learning the real meaning of life…with furry hijinks and lots of strangely mature content for a children’s film (I’ll explain later).

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Though wild theories about this film’s production are far more interesting to think about, I’d be willing to bet that Kevin Spacey saw NINE LIVES as an opportunity for a quick paycheck and took it. He appears for a total of 15 minutes (tops) of screen time and seems like he ran through his lines during a single afternoon in a sound booth. His bored delivery and lack of emotion makes it sound like he was probably reading them for the first time as he recorded them. Jennifer Garner’s emotional scenes seem to be a direct result of starring in this dreck. At least Christopher Walken seems to be having fun as a kooky cat shop owner who also doubles as an exposition-spouting cat whisperer.

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Plot-wise, and I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, NINE LIVES doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. This film seems far too focused on subplots that nobody really cares about, least of all little kids, than the goofy storyline of “cat reincarnation.” Suspected infidelity, conversations about life support and pulling the plug, potential suicide, attempted murder, and a total of four(!) business meetings take place within the confined of 87 pain-filled minutes that feel like an agonizing two hours. If that isn’t enough for your five-year-old to handle, brace yourself for jokes about jailbait and castration…because that’s what everyone needs to see in a family-oriented PG comedy. I’m far from a prude, but these bits slapped me with a shocked look as they simply didn’t belong in a family-oriented comedy about a talking animal.

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At long last, let me address what you were likely expecting out of NINE LIVES from the trailer: lots of cat animation combined with puppetry and an actual feline “performer.” These effects look like hot garbage. Clearly, most of the budget went to the sports car that Kevin Spacey drives in the first ten minutes of the film. If you want to see a cat getting drunk off hard liquor and destroying a picture of George Bush (both of which are highlights), then NINE LIVES is the film for you. However, you have to sit through a cringe-worthy sequence of the cat wrestling with a pen and pissing in a purse too. The funniest piece of cat animation won’t be given away in this review though, because it is a potential spoiler and made me laugh my ass off during the “emotional” finale.

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Who was this movie made for? The cat animation and hijinks suggest little kids. However, the office politics and a would-be murder mystery element overshadow any potential for the happy family comedy to shine through to younger viewers. I cannot believe that I’m saying this but NINE LIVES doesn’t have enough story geared towards Kevin Spacey turning into a cat. Even if you were to watch this with a steady supply of alcohol, pizza and bad-movie loving friends, you’re bound to walk away disappointed or (at the very least) perplexed as to what the hell you just sat through. Thinking of the possible studio discussions and conspiracy theories behind how this movie even got thrown into production is more entertaining than the actual film itself. NINE LIVES deserves to be killed in nine different ways!

Grade: F

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