Nine Lives is so depressingly bad”

by Steve Pulaski

Everything about Nine Lives feels nearly fifteen to twenty years late, right down to the presence of Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family) as director. The film has the aura of inexpensive, filmmaking frugality to it. With a load of cheap-looking, artificial wide-shots of skyscrapers amidst an urban jungle, it all looks like it was birthed by many overworked yet simultaneously apathetic special effects workers who were conned into making a film to serve as counterprogramming to a superhero film in the dog days of summer.

This is yet another truly pathetic attempt by a group of studio executives to make a family-oriented film that has even less of a meaningful story than a Saturday morning cartoon, yet with all the depth and brain-cells of one. Even in a summer of such treats like Finding Dory and The BFG, no child should have to be subjected to this kind of drudgery. Even cat lovers may find themselves alienated when the film makes no quibbles about having the first line of its film be narration work by Kevin Spacey proclaiming how cats don’t love you and don’t even care that you exist so long as there is food in their bowl.

Nine Lives
Directed by
Barry Sonnenfeld
Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell
Release Date
5 August 2016
Steve’s Grade: D-

Spacey plays a character so unbelievably unlikable and miserable it makes you hunger to see his more cheerful character in Swimming with Sharks. He is Tom Brand, one of the richest men in the world, running his own company that features a lot of well-dressed, Caucasian males walking around, talking on cell-phones, sometimes even having papers or manila portfolios in their hands while they do so. He is currently trying to build the largest building in the world, though his projections keep coming up short, especially with the kind of building material necessary to sustain such a skyscraper.

As you can imagine, Tom has distanced himself from everyone in his life, particularly his wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and their young daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman); his son from a previous marriage (Cheryl Hines play his ex-wife) currently works with him at his company. For a last minute gift for Rebecca’s eleventh birthday, Tom buys a cat named Mr. Fuzzypants by an eccentric pet shop owner named Felix Perkins (played Christopher Walken because who else?). A quick stop back at the office with the cat results in a major, life-threatening accident for Tom that leaves him in a coma, but his body and spirit inside Mr. Fuzzypants. Felix, who is the only person that can fully communicate with Tom while he is a cat, tells him that he must begin to piece his life back together and find out what’s truly important to him or he will be stuck as a cat forever.

This is exactly the kind of trash kids do not need to watch; the kind of films that do nothing for kids but momentarily cater to and further their short attention spans without making any kind of effort to tantalize their minds or give them something more memorable to cherish. Nine Lives is a film that almost entirely banks on the cute and cuddliness of its own premise, all while prompting downward spirals and bad names for everyone involved, particularly Spacey, who should be the last person to do projects like this while headlining a huge Netflix show.

As stated, if that’s not the most offensive part about the film, it’s the general look of the picture, which feels like a 1990s TV movie that isn’t trying. There is an appalling abundance of what look to be very poorly constructed and small sets, ones that mirror those cramped, four-camera sitcom setups, as well as downright atrocious special effects that leave a lot to the imagination in that you really just have to try and visualize for yourself what the filmmakers were going for here. Throw all that together and Nine Lives is so depressingly bad that its worst offense of all is probably existing.