By its very nature Nine Lives has no right to be any good. It’s a shameless corporate product that exploits the popularity of cat videos to rake in summer holiday money, while at the same time keeping costs low through ’90s-style CGI and blatant product placement. If that wasn’t enough, Nine Lives also uses one of the worst recycled plots in family films, where a work-obsessed parent must learn to connect with their family. Yet, when compared to the general ineptitude of drab blockbusters this year, it’s kind of refreshing.
The adult actors could sleepwalk through these roles, but they put the effort in. Garner in particular does well in slapstick mode, plus it would take a lot to make Christopher Walken a boring screen presence.
The smallest actors deserve the most credit though. Malina Weissman is that rarest of child actors in that she’s not obnoxious and actually musters sympathy, despite the wafer-thin script not giving her character an inner life. The other standout performer is Mr Fuzzypants himself, as the filmmakers wisely keep CGI pratfalls to a minimum and don’t digitally impose lip-syncing on this Spacey-possessed feline. As such the cat gets to act naturally adorable, creating a pleasing mismatch with Spacey’s dickish performance, which embodies what people love and loathe about cats.
Where Nine Lives fails is in its script, which occasionally wanders into adult fare to appease bored parents. In a family film where nearly all the characters are rich, a child sweatshop joke is gross.
Such poor writing bars a film from greatness, but that is something Nine Lives never aspires to; its preordained fate is to be watched on a lazy Netflix day. However, as a disposable piece of media with negligible artistic ambition, it could have been a lot worse.
CAST: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, Malina Weissman, Robbie Amell, Mark Consuelos
DIRECTOR: Barry Sonnenfeld
WRITERS: Ben Shiffrin, Dan Antoniazzi, Gwyn Lurie, Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson
SYNOPSIS: Stuffy businessman Tom Brand finds himself trapped inside the body of his family’s cat and must reconnect with his wife and daughter before it’s too late.