9 Lives is a remarkable film in that it seems that no one involved at any level of its production seems to have cared about it. From its asinine concept to its halfhearted promotion, the movie is shot through with a laziness so profound that it is utterly astounding that it has been released to theaters. It’s a really bad movie and not in a fun way; a really great bad movie is always some poor soul’s passion project. This movie was not made because somebody deeply wanted to make it, but because no one stopped it from being made.
The premise would be considered wildly uninspired fifteen years ago, now it’s mind-bogglingly uninspired: cutthroat billionaire real estate mogul Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey, sleeping his way through a mostly-voiceover role) has allowed his single-minded focus on expanding his empire to distract from his relationships with his wife Lara (Jennifer Garner), and daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman), and strain his relationship with his son from a previous marriage, David (Robbie Amell), whom he accuses of not being not enough of “a man.” In order to buy a last-minute birthday gift for the aforementioned daughter, Brand stumbles into a cats-only pet store owned by the ostensibly mysterious Mr. Perkins (Christopher Walken) where he picks up an adorable feline by the name of Mr. Fuzzypants. After a rooftop struggle with an ambitious underling (Mark Consuelos), Brand finds that his mind is inhabiting Mr. Fuzzypants’ form, while his own body lies comatose. He is informed by Perkins that he has one week to reconcile with his loved ones or he will remain in this feline form for the rest of his days.
How will Tom’s taking the form of a cat aid in the healing of the Brand family? No one knows. Why is Perkins so invested in the Brand family’s happiness? Doesn’t matter. These are the questions that no one asked during the production of 9 Lives and the audience is expected to not ask them either. It bears repeating: This movie is profoundly lazy. The best the script can muster for a running catchphrase is a sardonic “Seriously?” which was likely the question on the mind of anyone who saw the trailer for 9 Lives. Said catchphrase is Brand’s verbal response to realizing that he is become Mr. Fuzzypantst; this film cannot show enough interest in its own premise to suggest that a man having his consciousness transported into the body of a cat might come as something of an existential shock.
It’s all deeply unfunny. 9 Lives boasts five credited screenwriters and still the script only manages the barest of jokes, contriving a scenario in which Brand’s ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) is a presence in the lives of his wife and child so that he, from the safety of his non-understandable catspeak can make a series of tired jokes about her being a money-grubbing bitch, giving the proceedings a streak of sourness that doesn’t let up. Ostensibly, Hines’ character is meant to humor the adults who have indulged the questionable tastes of the children who made the choice to see 9 Lives, It fails to amuse. Undoubtedly, children will find 9 Lives worthy entertainment, it does feature a man-in-a-cat’s-body pissing in a mean lady’s purse, but appealing to the lowest-common-denominator of what children will find entertaining is not a worthy cause. Children may have no taste but it doesn’t mean children’s entertainment has to be tasteless.
9 Lives (EuropaCorp)
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer: Gwyn Lurie, Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, Daniel Antoniazzi, Ben Shiffrin
Cinematography: Karl Walter Lindenlaub.
Editor: Don Zimmerman, David Zimmerman
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Malina Weissman, Christopher Walken