From Gwyn Lurie and a team of four other co-writers, Nine Lives is a forgettable talking-animal comedy with sporadic laughs that will likely only amuse the most avid of cat-lovers. Kevin Spacey stars as a neglectful father and husband who is magically transported into a cat’s body, embarking on a furry journey he must take to appreciate the value of family. It’s as cheesy and boring as it sounds, but has its moments. (GEP: 3/5)
Review by Social Media Manager Georgiana E. Presecky
If you’re the kind of person who thinks the funniest part of the classic Chevy Chase holiday comedy Christmas Vacation is cousin Eddie’s dog chasing a squirrel through the living room, you’ll probably really enjoy Nine Lives.
The kids’ comedy follows “Tom” (Spacey), a big bad businessman who doesn’t care about anyone or anything – except, of course, his big bad business. He’s basically a less-refined, kids’ movie version of Frank Underwood (Spacey’s corrupt House of Cards politician), but he somehow manages to make this character’s snide selfishness pretty amusing.
Tom is obsessed with his business’ ownership of the tallest building in North America, which makes his daughter’s impending birthday celebration last on his list of priorities. He plugs “pet shop” into his GPS as he zooms through the New York City streets on the way to her party, little Rebecca’s birthday gift of a new cat a complete afterthought in his busy life.
He wanders into a cat shop owned by “Felix Perkins” (Christopher Walken). Of course it’s called “Purrkins Pet Shop” … the kind of gags you can expect throughout the 87 minutes of Nine Lives. As often seems to happen when Christopher Walken is around (Click, anyone?), lightning strikes and something mysterious happens – Tom wakes up in the body of a cat after a dangerous fall.
What follows is essentially one long YouTube video of “Mister Fuzzypants” (for real) falling off of countertops, meowing and doing cute and clumsy things while passing through the lives of his family members. He didn’t have time to pay attention to them in his human body, so this newfound four-legged perspective gives him a better idea of what his family goes through when he’s not home.
The usual somewhat-sweet clichés ensue. The family moral is admirable and refreshing, but the business side of Tom’s story might be a snooze for younger audiences. Robbie Amell holding down the fort at the office as Tom’s son “David” kept my attention for obvious reasons.
The script’s only redemption comes from Spacey’s biting sarcasm. After it’s well established how miserable Tom is in his newfound feline frame, he falls from a kitchen cabinet in which silverware spills across the floor, quipping, “I should’ve landed on the knives.” The character is almost as irritated by the film’s premise as I was, which somehow made it more fun.
Cheryl Hines also provides the biggest laughs as Tom’s snooty ex-wife “Madison,” but that might just be because I find extreme human qualities more amusing than feline ones. Hines is hilarious, and as Tom’s current wife “Lara,” Jennifer Garner once again proves her diversity as an actress. When she makes that certain Jenna-Rink-in-13-Going-On-30 face, I lose it every time – even if she is chasing a cat around her luxurious Manhattan apartment.
If you or your kids are cat people, definitely take ’em. There was no shortage of laughs from theatergoers around me who have likely experienced similar mishaps with their family pets, making the humor relatable and the plot enjoyable. If you’re like me – AKA if both cats and Frank Underwood freak you out – there’s not much life in this one.
© Georgiana E. Presecky FF2 Media (8/4/16)
Top photo: Rebecca bonds with “Mr. Fuzzypants,” unaware he’s actually her dad.
Middle photo: Laura is adjusting to life with a new pet, not knowing he’s her husband in a cat’s body.
Bottom photo: Jennifer Garner steals the show as a neglected wife whose husband changes the family dynamic when he transforms into a feline.
Photo credits: Fundamental Films
Q: Does Nine Lives pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
Barely. Tom’s daughter Rebecca has a few conversations with Madison’s daughter Nicole about their friends at school and how she’s struggling without her dad around.