Title: Nine Lives
Release Date: August 5, 2016
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Release Format: Theatrical
Nine Lives is the ipecac of modern cinema because it may induce the feeling of being sick to your stomach. Considering how low brow much of the humor is, It could also be described as a litter box. What’s truly depressing is the talented people who were involved with this project. It’s truly marveling how someone as respected as Kevin Spacey read this script and wanted to be a part of it. Maybe he didn’t read the script and went off the word of one of his close friends or agents. Either way, neither he nor anyone else should get a pass for starring in this atrocity. Nine Lives, while mercifully short, is the most insufferable talking animal film since Garfield.
The film immediately begins on the wrong foot by introducing the main character of Tom Brand. He’s an arrogant business mogul who makes his press conference entrance via skydiving by way of the terrible green screen. Before he does so, he berates his son for not having the courage to jump alongside him. In case you couldn’t tell, he’s a jerk plain and simple. He’s also the stereotypical “Disney Dad” who works all the time and rarely sees his family. His wife and daughter are reduced to spending tie with him through his business meetings and the insults spewed by his ex-wife. On the night of his daughter’s birthday, Tom visits a shady cat shop to fulfill her present wish. Coincidentally, this shop is owned by Christopher Walken, who started off the year hot with his role in The Jungle Book. Here, he plays the exact same character he did in the maligned Click. From there, Tom somehow winds up stuck inside the cat while his physical body lies in a coma. Given an ultimatum, he has to regain his family’s love and attention before his company is sold off.
Kevin Spacey is an incredibly talented actor. He wouldn’t have a plethora of awards to his name if he didn’t. Occasionally, he has been known to sleepwalk through some of his roles. See his Lex Luthor as an example of how he can sleepwalk through a role. Given his line reading here, he has all the energy of a domesticated housecat. As much as it’s apparent that he cares very little, the script does him no favors. The “jokes” peppered throughout offer little in the way of wit or even chuckles. When it’s not focused on business discussion ripe for children’s entertainment, the proceedings are no more than Youtube cat videos. They all feel like sketches with little in the way of story or tone coherence. For example, Brand downs a decanter of whiskey out of a cat bowl. If that’s too high brow for you, expect to see no fewer than four urination scenes.
The biggest takeaway from Nine Lives is how surprisingly mean-spirited it is in a non-cynical way. Every character is completely reprehensible. Aside from Tom, his wife (Jennifer Garner) has an entire subplot devoted to her unfaithfulness and aspirations for a divorce. She’s been seeing someone else behind Tom’s back but we’re supposed to root for her because Tom works too much. His son (Robbie Amell), is the definition of a pushover until the script conveniently needs him to care about his father’s company and well-being. If these don’t sound reprehensible enough, then Tom’s partner Ian takes the cake considering he’s practically a supervillain. While Tom’s human body lies in a coma, Ian manipulates the board members to sell off the company. Unless your child is fond of the politics of company ownership percentages, this entire subplot is superfluous. This is a world in which the rules of morality are nonexistent and everyone is just a despicable human being. As an example, two security guards consider tasing a cat for the sake of a good laugh. The film mistakes being mean spirited for subversive humor.
While the script is horrendous, director Barry Sonnenfeld offers little in the way of fantastic visuals or clever sight gags. The entire film doesn’t even feel cinematic. It feels like it was shot for a pilot episode of an ABC tv show. Considering Sonnenfeld’s prior success with incorporating special effects into his work, this is a major setback. All of the prat falls performed by the cat have the believably of the live action Scooby-Doo character. A live cat is used during the film which makes the effect shots all the more distracting. It’s obvious nothing is truly there so it lacks any worthwhile investment. Sonnenfeld attempts to throw in moments of brevity but they have the impact of a cactus.
If the idea of being stuck inside a cat while your physical body dies isn’t enough, Nine Lives goes one step further. As an example, there’s a part of the climax involving one character’s attempted suicide. It comes completely out of left field and is designed for shock value to warrant character investment. The true shock value is finding out that this film cost $30 million to make. Clearly, all of the money went to the actors’ wallets because this film is creatively bankrupt. Even though it was 85 minutes long, that’s too much time to waste watching this “cat-astrophe.”
- Mercifully Short
- Mean Spirited
- Lazy Jokes
- Terrible Performances
- Convoluted Rules
Matt is a longtime film buff, writer and podcast host from Rhode Island. Ask him what his favorite films are and you will probably get a different answer every time. In addition to writing for The Nerd Stash, Matt writes for The Young Folks, which is also the home of his podcast Directors of Cinema.