Nine Lives and all the images you see in this review are owned by EuropaCorp
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
How does this movie even exist? I know actors gotta eat, and sure, we ARE getting a Bryan Cranston dad comedy with James Franco soon, but even HE doesn’t have the freaking clout of Kevin Spacey! If this guy was so desperate for a payday, then why isn’t he in a Marvel movie or a DreamWorks animated feature!? Why the hell is he in a TALKING CAT movie!? This is the shit you cast Chris O’Donnell in or snatch up Jason Lee to do! Not two time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey! Ugh… whatever. We gotta deal with the cards we’re dealt. Does this movie manage to be just as bad as we expect it to be, or is there something there that justifies its reason to exist in 2016? No. The answer is no. Still, we might as well take a look anyway.
Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is your typical movie dad. Spends a lot of time at work, doesn’t have much time for his family, and is generally considered a jerk by his peers. He doesn’t care though because he’s building the TALLEST BUILDING ON THE EAST COAST which will be his legacy; much more so than his grown ass son David (Robbie Amell) who works for him in a desperate bid to get his approval, and his daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman) who still hasn’t figured out that her dad is an asshole. His wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) informs him that he better come through in spades for his daughter’s birthday and all she wants is a cat. Bi shocker there. The guy bites the bullet and goes to buy a furry bastard but somehow (through FATE perhaps!?) ends up in the shop of God (Christopher Walken) who for some reason runs a cat store. Okay, he’s not ACTUALLY God, but considering how magical this guy is, there’s not that many other alternatives, though it would have been AWESOME if he turned out to be Satan. Anyway, Tom buys a cat from the man known as Felix Perkins (he runs a shop called Purr-kins) but has to make an emergency stop at the office on the way back to tell one of his company’s terrible managers (Mark Consuelos) that his ass is shit canned. Unfortunately for Tom, lightning strikes, shenanigans ensue, and he ends up in the body of the cat while his real body is in a coma (presumably the cat’s consciousness just died or something). Now he has to find a way back into his body before that awful manager dude somehow sells the company out from under him and his son, while also learning that maybe life isn’t all about going to work every day and providing for your family. What a moral. Can Kevin Spacey bother to show any interest in this performance? Just how embarrassing can Jennifer Garner’s performance get? WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA!?!?
Fuck this movie. The thing is, I EXPECTED this to be bad just from the lousy premise and the number of veteran actors who are shamefully parading themselves onscreen for cash, but this almost feels like they were TRYING to be bad. They wanted to be a SO BAD IT’S GOOD film, and to their credit, I DID laugh at points throughout this, but it’s a not a good SO BAD IT’S GOOD movie, it’s just a bad movie. The very fact that it’s clear they’re trying to be self-referential at points robs the movie of any SO BAD IT’S GOOD authenticity (is Tommy Wiseau as funny now that he’s in on the joke? I didn’t think so!) and what little of this movie I feel is a knowing wink in that direction is easily eclipsed by the other eighty-five percent that aims for mediocre but can’t even manage that. The idea of Kevin Spacey in a talking cat movie is amusing in a schadenfreude sort of way, but when you have to sit through it for ninety minutes, the joke wears thin pretty damn quickly.
For this movie to have succeeded it had to go one of two ways; it needed to either be a cult classic crash and burn or it had to rise above expectations to be something great. Let’s get that first one out of the way quickly as it’s very clear why this isn’t going to be The Room of cat movies. For me, the key to a movie being SO BAD IT’S GOOD is auteurship; the idea that what we’re seeing on screen is the singular vision of someone who had an idea but and either had no idea how to convey it or didn’t care enough about the conventions of film making to make it a good film as well. Now you can argue that with so many people working on any movie that it’s almost impossible for a film to be a single vision as opposed to a collaborative one, and there are PLENTY of SO BAD IT’S GOOD movies where the writer, director, and star aren’t the same person (The Identical), but the key here is that it has to be unique. It has to be something that you’re not going to see anywhere else, and this is usually the case when you have a half-mad idiot/genius in the director’s chair. This movie though has Barry Sonnenfeld which is basically the exact OPPOSITE of an auteur and is responsible for some of the most overproduced big money Hollywood films from the nineties; personally directing all three Men in Black movies and Wild Wild West. To put it simply, this is not a guy with a unique vision. He’s very well trained in the art of Hollywood film making (his work as a cinematographer is pretty outstanding) but his directing style is not subversive; it’s crowd pleasing. He either didn’t have the skills or the desire to make this anything more than a straightforward talking cat movie which is exactly what we got, so while there are moments in here that felt REALLY out of place like they were trying to wink at the audience, it’s just too straightforward to enjoy on an ironic level.
So if the movie isn’t SO BAD IT’S GOOD, is it at least good on its own merits? HELL NO! This movie looks awful in that slick way where the cinematography is crystal clear yet the sets, designs, and ESPECIALLY lighting all look amateurish like a mid-nineties sitcom. The effects work on the cat is awful whenever it becomes a CG cat, and it’s never consistent how the Spacey Cat is supposed to behave. There are two different cats in here; one that’s a CG abomination with humanistic expressions and actions (along with superpowers it seems like) and the real cat who in no way conveys the internal monologues that Kevin Spacey is having. Oh, and the voice over of Spacey sounds awful and doesn’t integrate itself into the actual movie. It sounds like an audio commentary or a riff-track that’s layered on top of the action, and it never feels like a genuine aspect of this film; but then again its better than the cat noises they include which range from ridiculously fake (some dude just going ROOOWW) to the most horrifying cacophony of noise you could imaging as half the time it sounds like the wails of a thousand dying cats crying out in agony. Pacing wise, it feels WAY longer than it actually is because the conflict in here is so unengaging that there’s no real sense of forward momentum. There are at least two ticking clocks in this movie, yet neither of them seem to influence the entire middle act of this movie as its just one lame cat set piece after another that do nothing to progress the story or move us towards a resolution to the conflicts. At best, what we can figure is that these random sketches of Spacey cat finding out if his wife is cheating on him or the cat playing balloon volleyball with the young kid are there to show him learning to be a better person, but it’s a REALLY shallow interpretation of what a better person is and the cat angle is not necessary to tell that kind of story!
Even if the story is bad, they can make it up with solid performances by good actors, right? No. Not in the slightest. It’s embarrassing to watch talents like Jennifer Garner have to make befuddled faces at the camera for an hour or to hear Kevin Spacey try to give a shit in the voice overs, but at least those are the GOOD actors in here. Everyone else is at a TGIF television level by which I mean completely insincere and mugging, and this has to be one of the worst kid actors I’ve seen in a movie, though I should probably put more blame on the awful script writers (of which there are five) who wrote this character at least five years younger than she’s ACTUALLY supposed to be in the movie. There isn’t an eleven year old (who is also THIS rich) that still looks up to their workaholic dad like he’s the bee’s knees.
To get into what meager positives there are in this movie, the beginning where Kevin Spacey hasn’t turned into a cat yet is at least tolerable because Spacey really is that good of an actor (at least when he’s not doing voice over) and Christopher Walken is always fun to watch. He’s basically playing his role from Click if they didn’t bother revealing what his character’s deal is, and the guy will always be wonderful on screen; even when he’s reduced to doing garbage like this. Maybe the guy’s not getting the kind of roles he should be at this point, or maybe he’s happy sticking to the light stuff. Either way, he’s the only real positive aspect of this wretched film.
To the movie’s credit, I will say that the ending is the one moment in here where it truly becomes SO BAD IT’S GOOD. For a movie that remained this light and inoffensive for most of its running time, it takes a REALLY dark turn towards the end that I legitimately did not see coming and was completely baffled by when it showed up. It’s so bizarre of a transition that it feels like the filmmakers SOMEHOW didn’t realize how jarring or how dark this third act really was, which is… interesting I guess. I won’t spoil exactly what happens, but the finale starts off as completely unfathomable that they’re touching upon this subject and then ends up completely tone deaf when you see how they back track it. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like THAT in a talking animal movie, so I guess that’s something this movie has going for it…
This is not a good movie, but we all knew that before we even saw a trailer. What everyone wanted to know is if this is a fun disaster. It’s not. Maybe a bit at the and there is enjoyment to be had with Christopher Walken, but even by SO BAD IT’S GOOD standards, this movie is sub-par and lame. I don’t need to tell you not to waste your money on this, but I wouldn’t even recommend seeing it once it hits Netflix or whatever. Honestly, the best this movie can hope for is a few fun reviews and a couple hilarious videos of people talking about it outside the theater. Hell, the whole reason I even bothered seeing it was to write this review! Did you enjoy it!? You BETTER have considering the shit I just had to sit through!!
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