Usually when I start thinking about writing a movie review, I try to avoid including any spoilers. No such problem is to be found in writing about director Barry Sonnenfeld’s clunker Nine Lives – there’s nothing here to spoil because it’s all rotten to the core.
Rarely do I have this much disdain for a film; however, I knew this one was a stinker from the trailer. Unfortunately, when your kids want to see a movie for whatever their reasons are (in this case I was told “We like cats”), you are just better off taking them and suffering the cinematic slings and arrows of your outrageous misfortune.
I have seen so many children’s movie with my kids, and this is the first time in all these years that I could hear a pin drop in the theater. There was not one laugh, not one guffaw, not one peep during the entire excruciating 87 minutes. Afterwards the kids’ reaction was “It was just okay” which is kind of like their version of a death sentence – it’s their way of saying “This movie sucked.”
Probably the biggest question is this – how did anyone get Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, and Christopher Walken to even walk onto the set after reading this script? I have enjoyed their efforts in some super films and TV shows, but here they were either sleepwalking or hypnotized and stuck in front of the camera – yes, it is that bad.
Spacey plays a vapid, self-indulgent, bombastic billionaire with bad hair (sound familiar?) named Tom Brand who, to stroke his own ego, is trying to build the highest building in North America right in the middle of Manhattan. Garner plays his suffering but in love with him wife Lara, who insists that he buy their daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman) a personal gift for her birthday, and all Rebecca wants is a cat.
This brings the grumpy Brand into the Purrkins cat store run by Felix Perkins (Walken), combining his Deer Hunter zombie face with his The Continental weirdness from SNL in this part. Sadly, here it is neither funny nor scary just a sort of rote reading of the lines to get through the scenes and cash a paycheck.
Brand ends up buying a cat – Mr. Fuzzypants – and assorted accessories and then heads toward the big building instead of his daughter’s birthday party to meet with his slick and seedy right hand (Mark Consuelos, who should be crying on Kelly Ripa’s shoulder and begging forgiveness for taking this role) Ian Cox. On a rain swept rooftop Cox confronts Brand about going public with the company, and explains a nonsensical plan to beat a competing Chicago building in height (even while writing this I know it sounds ludicrous) with an antenna that Brand rejects and causes him to angrily fire Cox on the spot. A lightning strike sends Brand and Mr. Fuzzypants to the brink of the roof, and Cox allows them to fall – during which a transfer takes place and Brand now resides inside the cat.
We have seen all this before in way better films, but the gist of it is that Brand has to redeem himself as a cat or be subjected to living the rest of his life as a feline. There feels like nothing much is at stake here – nothing that makes one want Brand to be human again. In short, there is little or no empathy for anyone in this film except the poor cat that should bite its casting agent and scratch its owner for being dropped into this mess.
Nine Lives is easily the most terrible film I have seen in 2016, and it ranks up there as one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I recommend that you avoid this one completely, but if your kids do drag you to it, take some Sominex and wear a pair of dark sunglasses – at least you’ll get a nice 87 minute nap.