November 4, 2016

Blu-Ray Review (with my cat): NINE LIVES

Starring Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Arnell, Cheryl Hines, Malina Weissman, Christopher Walken, Mark Consuelos. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. (2016, 87 min).

Just after I popped-in this disc and plopped onto the sofa to review it, one of my cats, Joesy, slinked into family room and brushed up against my leg.

“Whatcha watchin’, Dave?” she asked.

Nine Lives,” I replied, scratching her behind the ears, which got her motor going. “Wanna watch it with me? It’s about a guy trapped in a cat’s body.”

Though still purring, she eyed me with some skepticism. “I dunno. Most movies about cats really suck, to say nothing of the whole body-switching thing. Maybe I'll just go outside and kill something.”

“Yeah, but this one has Kevin Spacey as an egocentric billionaire transported into a cat’s body by a quirky feline boutique owner played by Christopher Walken, all under the direction of Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Get Shorty). That’s a lot of high caliber talent for a film that sounds like something that might air on the Disney Channel on any given night. So even though the initial trailers looked ominously awful, perhaps this trio is able to put a nifty spin on a well worn premise. Besides, you got something better to do?”

Joesy paused to ponder, then jumped onto the sofa to join me. “Well, I do like Kevin Spacey quite a bit, and Get Shorty’s one of my favorites. I’ll give it a shot.”

“Good kitty.”

We watched in relative silence as the plot was laid out: Spacey plays Tom Brand, a meglomaniac not to far removed from Donald Trump, who routinely neglects his wife (Jennifer Garner) and daughter, Rebecca (Malina Weissman). Meanwhile, his company questions his obsession with the construction of his new tower.

Joesy and Dave review Nine Lives.
“No cats yet,” Joesy quipped. “How boring.”

“It’s called exposition,” I said. “Admittedly, it’s a little dull, but probably necessary.”

“So that time I have to wait in the morning before you drag your lazy ass outta bed to feed me breakfast is exposition?”

Rebecca wants a cat for her birthday, so Tom grudgingly finds a mysterious, out-of-the-way shop run by Felix Perkins (Christopher Walken) and purchases Mr. Fuzzypants. Later, Tom has a near fatal accident. While his actual body lies in the hospital in a deep coma, he wakes up in the body of Mr. Fuzzypants.

Joesy hissed. “Hey, Mr. Fuzzypants looks like Stinky.” (Stinky is our other cat, who spends most of her life under my daughter’s bed and almost never shows herself). “I hate Stinky. And lemme a cat, this Brand guy discovers how what a terrible dad he’s been and learns to give his family the love and attention they deserve.”

“Maybe...let’s just watch.”

Meanwhile, all kinds of slapstick ‘hilarity’ ensues as Brand adjusts to life as a cat while simultaneously trying to convince his family who he really is, as well as save his company from the clutches of greedy underling Ian Cox (Mark Consuelos).

“Wow,” Joesy stated, jumping to the coffee table and staring at the screen in bewilderment. “The special effects are terrible. The difference between the real cat and the computer animated cat from one scene to another is obvious. And none of us move at all like that! I’ve seen better CGI on the SyFy Channel. None of these gags are funny, either. What a waste of Kevin Spacey’s talent. Who wrote this?”

I checked out the credits on the box. “Five people.”

Five??? And the funniest gag they could come up with a My. Fuzzypants taking a whiz in a purse?”

“Hey, you peed in the laundry hamper once. Besides, you’re an adult cat. Nine Lives is obviously intended for kids and kittens. Kids like scatological humor, you know.”

“Then why isn’t your kid down here watching it with you?”

“She’s twelve and wasn’t interested. When I say kids, I mean wee ones. You know...indiscriminating kids under ten who eat up anything featuring cute animals.”

That cat isn’t cute,” Joesy sniffed. "Looks like Stinky." Signaling her disapproval, she hoisted a hind leg to commence cleaning her nether regions,

Christopher Walken and Mr. Fuzzypants go over their lines.
The rest of Nine Lives played out pretty much as she predicted.

“Nailed it,” she said smugly, hopping off the coffee table as the credits rolled. Perhaps she’s just getting more cynical and harder to please in her advancing age, or maybe she just sat through too many other movies like this, but Joesy seemed decidedly unimpressed.

“Final verdict?” I asked.

“Two paws down, Dave. Maybe I’d have enjoyed it more as a kitten...and there was a dog that died at the end. You?”

“I’m afraid I must concur. I suppose if I were a parent with little kids, Nine Lives might be a decent disc to pop in during a sleepover or long trips to grandma’s house. But I don’t think I could bare sitting through it with them more than once. And there are a lot of better films out there with a similar premise. Anyway, thanks for watching, Joesy. Where you off to?”

“Think I’ll go beat up Stinky.”

FEATURETTES: “Letting the Cat out of the Bag: The Making of Nine Lives”; “Russian for Herding Cats” (a short segment on the film’s two cat trainers).
DVD & Digital Copies.

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