Review: Nine Lives is purr-fectly adequate family entertainment.
Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is a wealthy businessman with a wife and two kids that he barely pays any attention to. The film opens on Tom obsessing over his latest project of building the world’s largest skyscraper. Meanwhile, Rebecca (Malina Weissman), Tom’s daughter, has a birthday quickly approaching and Tom has yet to get her a gift. After much debate, Tom decides to get Rebecca a cat since it is something that she has always wanted and will hopefully make up for the lack of father/daughter time. Tom visits a cat only pet shop run by Felix Perkins (Christopher Walken). Perkins can instantly tell that Tom isn’t a fan of cats and sells him a cat named Mister Fuzzypants to bring home to his daughter. While leaving the shop, Felix warns Tom that he shouldn’t answer his phone because he is already running late to Rebecca’s party. Completely ignoring what Felix just said, Tom picks up the phone and learns that one of his employees Ian Cox (Mark Consuelos) wants to meet and talk with him. Tom heads back to his office where a freak accident occurs causing Tom to switch bodies with Mister Fuzzypants.
Nine Lives is one of those rare occasions where I completely understand why everyone is hating on this film without even seeing it. There have been dozens of films and television shows over the years about talking cats and most of those films haven’t been so great. To put it another way, when you see a trailer for a live action talking cat film; it normally doesn’t scream, “must-see.” Nine Lives however, is a completely harmless film that is nowhere near as bad as the trailers would lead you to believe.
The idea behind Nine Lives although silly and kind of muddled is fairly interesting. A guy who takes his family for granted becomes an animal he hates and learns all about his family and what he has been missing out on. I truly believe for a family film, you really could do a lot worse than this film. Nine Lives is a 100 times better than Ice Age Collision Course and even though the tone is all over the place, at least the film has several moments that are either comedic or endearing.
One of my biggest issues with the film is that it wasn’t nearly as funny as it should have been. When your target demographic is 5-10 year olds, I expected a lot more silliness but besides Fuzzypants jumping around the house and through the streets. There really wasn’t much humor to the story to be completely honest. I will say however that there are several scenes I found to be somewhat entertaining. It should also be noted that some of themes throughout the film were surprisingly much deeper than I expected to see in a film of this nature. Two things that really stood out in particular was the whole being in a coma storyline as well as the ending which is surprisingly touching and rather dark.
Cheryl Hines is in the film as Tom’s ex-wife and I found her character to be rather annoying. It was like she was cast in the role simply to win over the adults but I didn’t think she added anything to the story at all. I also didn’t like her daughter Nicole (Talitha Bateman) because even though I understood that she was suppose to be this selfish teenager; I just found the performance to be incredibly one-note and unbelievable. Jennifer Gardner is pretty much playing herself in this role. I don’t feel like she really did all to much in the film but was ok as the frustrated lonely wife
The character of Rebecca took a while for me to get attached but near the end, I started to like her. I felt very early on that Malina wasn’t really trying to act at all. The whole scene between Lara and Rebecca finding out about Tom being in a coma felt very forced and didn’t showcase any real emotion. There is a scene near the end involving Rebecca dancing with Mister Fuzzypants. If you can put aside the silliness of the whole “she’s dancing with a cat,” the scene was rather touching and heartfelt.
Christopher Walken plays Christopher Walken: the Cat Whisperer. Walken is entertaining as always and is once again playing a character that is incredibly weird. Its the perfect role for Walken because he really doesn’t have to try or do much for it to work. Everyone will beat up Kevin Spacey for starring in this silly little film but he is basically doing what he does best here. His character Tom is someone who is constantly complaining about things and really only cares about his projects. He’s totally obsessed with work and telling others what they can and shouldn’t do. We have seen Spacey play this character before but just never in a family friendly way. Its not great work but its not awful either.
All in all, Nine Lives can be best described as purr-fectly mediocre. I think children will eat this film up while adults will probably be somewhat bored but may find a few things here and there that they enjoy about it. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to see that the film never relied on poop or fart jokes and in a lot of ways felt like throwback to the early animal films of the 70s and 80s. Its not something that is bound to be remembered months from now but if you take it for what it is; I think Nine Lives a fairly fun and harmless way to spend about 90 minutes with your family at the movie theater.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s final rating for Nine Lives is 5 out of 10.