If it’s true that cats have nine lives, maybe they won’t mind sparing part of one of them to watch this film. For us humans who only live once, however, even the short 87-minutes of this movie feels like too much precious time wasted. NINE LIVES is cheesy even by family-friendly standards and is mostly an exercise in seeing a CGI cat run into things, fall over, and urinate. And if that’s the main draw of the film, why not just find videos of real cats actually running into things and falling off of counters on the Internet? It’ll cost you a fraction of the time, money, and sanity you’ll spend watching this movie and will arguably be far more entertaining.
Kevin Spacey stars as Tom Brand, in a role that is such a perfectly crafted cliché it borders on parody. Ruthless CEO? Check. Billionaire with an ego? Check. Neglects family, telling daughter he’ll be there but misses her birthday party? Check as well. Of course, the only way to change this character is to have him realize how hurtful his actions are. How can we accomplish that? Turning him into a cat, of course! As Tom Brand tries to find a last-minute present for his daughter, he happens upon a back alley cat shop operated by Christopher Walken. Clearly an extension of his character in Click, Walken again uses supernatural abilities to teach fathers a lesson in not taking their families for granted. For a movie that hinges on a man being transported into the body of a cat, the explanation of what exactly causes this to occur is frustratingly vague.
For starters, directly after buying the cat, instead of going to his daughter’s birthday party, Tom Brand gets a call from his second in command, Ian (Mark Consuelos), who seems hell-bent on making Tom’s company, Firebrand, go public. Instead of just taking a phone call, Tom decides to take an in-person meeting with Ian at the top of a skyscraper he’s building. Much of the film is preoccupied with Tom’s obsession with making this skyscraper the tallest building in North America. So ostensibly, Tom drives back to his skyscraper after getting the cat, takes the cat all the way to the roof of the building, and has a two-minute meeting with Ian during a storm. Lightning strikes some antennas near the two men, and according to usual movie logic in these sorts of movies, one would think that this would be enough to transport Tom into the cat. However, this is not the case. Instead, Tom dangles from the top of the building, grabs the carrier holding his recently bought car, falls, and manages to land in a window and go into a coma. It’s at this point he is inside the cat. Was it the fall? The landing on the floor? Was a traumatic incident necessary to be transported inside the cat? How did Walken’s character know all of this would happen?
Quibbles about cat transference aside, there is plenty more wrong with the movie. For one, the subplot involving Tom Brand’s obsession with building the tallest building in the world is immensely odd. We see many scenes in which his son, David (Robbie Amell), who has tried all his life to make his dad proud, is constantly looking through binders and blueprints to figure out how to make the Firebrand tower just a little bit taller. The movie’s other subplot involving making the company go public is even stranger. Board meetings, important documents saying who’s in charge, and corporate backstabbing are all included in this storyline. And although a bad guy storyline is par for the course, this particular one is strangely dense and immensely dull.
Nine Lives doesn’t make up its mind about who its audience is. Kids in the audience laugh with glee whenever Mr. Fuzzypants (the moniker of the cat in which Tom is trapped) falls down on his head but are bored out of their minds during company meetings and backdoor deals. In the cat storyline, its lame sight gags and groan-worthy puns (one character asks if there’s an MRI for cats, the response, of course, is CAT scans) suggest that the movie is for kids and the most easily pleased of moviegoers. So why involve an overly-convoluted story about whether or not a company should be publicly traded? Why not have the billionaire CEO be in charge of some sort of company that could involve more sight gags, or, really, anything interesting at all? Even for more discerning adults in the audience, watching a company slowly move towards being publicly shared against the wishes of a CEO in a coma is not exactly riveting stuff when it’s dealt with in such a surface manner.
It’s hard to understand why Spacey chose this project.The script is perfunctory in every manner. The final product doesn’t exactly scream high budget (it has been estimated at $30 million before P&A costs), so a massive payday seems unlikely. Perhaps playing a cat has always been on his acting bucket list. Not quite as head-scratching, but still puzzling, is the movie’s involvement of Walken, Jennifer Garner, and Cheryl Hines. Anyone hoping to find a well-structured movie about families reconnecting will want to look elsewhere. And for those looking for silly cat hijinks, Youtube should do the trick.
Running time: 87 minutes
Wil Loper | Contributor