Barry Sonnenfeld has made some very memorable comedies in the late 90’s like the Addams Family films and Men in Black.
He was also the director of photography on some of the Coen brothers’ best films. So watching his new film Nine Lives comes as a giant shock considering how jaw droppingly bad it is. At some sections it’s actually bad enough to qualify as so bad it’s amazing.
The very first shock is rendered when you realize that Kevin Spacey is in this movie. How an Oscar winner was roped into this production is a mystery but the answer could be related to a paycheck being so big it’s impossible to pass up on.
Anyway, Spacey plays Tom Brand, a super angry businessman who doesn’t really have time for his second wife (Jennifer Garner) and their daughter (Malina Weissman). The only attention he pays to family is when he teaches his son (Robbie Amell) how to be a ‘man’.
Brand pisses off his daughter and gets a new pet for her, a cat named Mister Fuzzypants. An accident then occurs and Brand gets trapped, hold your breath, in the body of the cat.
Only someone very high on some high-grade illegal pharmaceuticals could come up with a plot like this one, and if you’re willing to go with it you’re in for some (stoney) good times.
Throughout the film we get a cat who talks in Spacey’s voice, trying to get his wife’s attention and ending up in various accidents mined for comedic relief. Some of the attempts at comedy include being wary of taking a dump in a litter box, then taking a dump in a purse, being harassed and chased by his ex wife’s dog, slamming into a wall, doing pull ups and chucking phones into a toilet.
It’s like watching a series of the worst ideas a focus group could come up with to cater to some sort of demographic belonging in an asylum. Someone would have searched what trends on Google the most and ‘funny cat videos’ would have been the answer – and they decided to make the film, with four different co-writers no less.
There’s also something in the film that makes you cry – the scenes featuring Spacey and the great Christopher Walken as a pet shop owner. It’s sad to know that a movie about a talking cat doing pull ups is the moment that put these two greats together on screen, and it’s downright depressing to realize that you would probably never seen them together in a film ever again.
If you look close enough you can see the twinkle in Walken’s eyes – he knows fully well that he is in an absolutely horrible movie and is intrinsically smiling at you because you were conned into watching it.
The only big takeaway from Nine Lives is that director Sonnenfeld has actually managed to outdo the awfulness of Wild Wild West in a spectacular fashion. Had this film advertised and released with the likes of Sharknado it would have been hailed as a classic of Z grade movie-making, but presented as a summer comedy it’s more turgid than entertaining.