Score: 1.5 out of 5
And the Oscar goes to…. the decent CGI stunt-cat that played Mr. Fuzzypants in ‘Nine Lives’. The cat trainers also deserve some Oscar recognition for making the four cats- that really played the character -react to the actors around them in the way director Barry Sonnenfeld sees fit. I now believe that Christopher Walken is off his rocker for how old he is, after seeing him talk to a cat as if it were a person. Now that sentence alone makes this movie sound like something you’d want to avoid; but after seeing a trailer for this movie where we get to hear Kevin Spacey’s deadpan sarcasm as Mr. Fuzzypants, I was interested in ‘Nine Lives’, despite having a feeling that this was more of a movie for adults to take their kids to see.
The auditorium I went in wasn’t even packed; (I assume because more people paid to see ‘The Secret Life of Pets’) there were only a few audience members and a couple families. I had a bad feeling about ‘Nine Lives’, but I sat there trying to avoid its stupid marketing and enjoy Kevin Spacey’s presence. While he is on-screen for half the first-act and even appears in it for plot’s sake, he is mostly behind a recording booth having fun with the material he’s been given. (It also seems like when he’s on-screen, he’s bored and wants off.)
Spacey plays Tom Brand, the head of his family-owned company named “FireBrand”. His goal is to have the building across from him become the tallest skyscraper ever. He hates competition as any pompous boss would, and comes off as a jerk who just wants to win. His time at work even causes him to miss out on spending more time with his tired wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman), whose birthday is coming up the next day. He is however convinced by Lara to get Rebecca a last-minute present: That which she wants is a cat. Tom’s only problem is that he really hates cats and sees them as monsters that wreck everything. He does however end up in a strange cat shop run by the creepy shop owner Felix Perkins (Walken).
The way Perkins comes off is that he’s a guy who talks to cats and claims to know what brought Tom to his shop, but Tom instead just gets a cat named Mr. Fuzzypants and gets out of the store. However something happens to him and his soul ends up in Mr. Fuzzypants’ body as what Perkins explains in the most cliche and stupid manner that the only way to get Tom’s soul back into his human body is to spend more time with his family. Thus the hilarity and cleverness begin as he tries to get used to being a cat.
I admit that I chuckled more at the cleverness that ‘Nine Lives’ is trying to boast over its been-done-before premise and actually shows its heart near the very end. I can also tolerate the CGI stunt-cat jumping off a few buildings, trying to open a pen to write a message, etc. I also felt content with Spacey’s sarcastic delivery that helps it become clever. However, what I couldn’t stand was not how each ridiculous situation was handled, but also how funny it really wasn’t. I do have to add that it is a better pet movie than ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ and actually uses its premise better than the former movie did; I can’t believe I admitted that. I guess Kevin Spacey movies are actually enjoyable.