2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)
I walked into the new family comedy Nine Lives expecting something so mind-numbingly stupid that I would want to leave the theater out of sheer agony. The origin of this expectation was the 5% critical reception on rottentomatoes.com, a website that gathers and averages reviews of films and provides a general consensus. Nine Lives was not screened early for critics (often a bad sign), and has no consensus as of the writing of this review. That being the case, I thought this film would be an easy target, something I would see just to rip it apart. However, this film provided a great number of laughs for both me and the audience of families I saw it with, making me realize that its critics were looking at it thorough the wrong lens. This is a movie where Kevin Spacey is voicing a cat and doing zany things, nothing more, nothing less. If that premise does not appeal to you, then see something else. However, if you don’t mind seeing a cat do flips in the air and spouting sarcasm, then Nine Lives should adequately entertain you.
It’s your basic Shaggy Dog scenario: Workaholic father Tom Brand (an always enjoyable Kevin Spacey) is about to open the tallest tower in New York. The trouble is that this success has led to a major disconnect from his family, wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and his daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). If that weren’t enough, his son David (Robbie Amell) works at his company and feels severely underappreciated for his efforts.
Lara informs Tom that he must give his daughter something she actually wants this year (as last year’s foosball table didn’t exactly light her candles). Knowing she wants a cat, Tom enters an odd pet store run by Felix (a downplayed Christopher Walken) and purchases one. Unfortunately, Tom gets in an accident on the way to the birthday party, waking up in the cat’s body while his human one lays comatose. Now, Tom must figure out how to escape this situation, all while David must handle the business side of things in Tom’s absence.
Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors because of his onscreen presence. While this is by no means an academy award-winning performance, Spacey brings his normal magnetic energy to the role both in human and animal form (something very important, as he spends the majority of the film as a feline). His voice work is fine, delivering his snarky observations with gusto and a sense of enjoyment. I can tell he wants to be here, and that this isn’t just an easy paycheck for him. Garner and Walken make the most of their parts, despite having little to do, and Cheryl Hines also provides laughs as Tom’s ex-wife.
The animal antics are quite plentiful here, and your enjoyment of them will hinge on your love for cats. We see the cat do flips, urinate in purses, and even poor a bottle of scotch before getting a tad drunk. I understand if someone finds this stupid, but my audience and I laughed hysterically. In a summer full of dark superhero films and unnecessary reboots, this film was a pleasant change of pace for me.
Parents should know that there are a few bad words (Including one incomplete SOB), and one castration joke. Other than that, and the subplot about Tom’s son saving the business from a snidely employee, Nine Lives is a surprisingly adequate family flick with enough hair-raising antics for audiences who just want to see a cute kitty.
Rated PG for Thematic Elements, Language, and Some Rude Humor