In “Nine Lives,” the director of the “Men in Black” and “Get Shorty” movies turned filmdom’s special effects wizards loose on the most challenging bit of fakery ever attempted in a movie.
They digitized a cat so that they could show it peeing on the rug. And in a purse.
Barry Sonnenfeld cast Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken, along with Jennifer Garner and Cheryl “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Hines in a kiddie film about a testy, ruthless businessman and neglectful dad (Spacey) transformed into a cat so that he can become a better person.
So we’re treated to a couple of scenes featuring two of the greatest character actors in the modern cinema in which one tries to buy a cat from the other. Tom Brand (Spacey) of the Firebrand conglomerate needs a birthday gift for his daughter and Purrkin’s Shop run by the inscrutable green-suited Perkins (Walken), or “Purrkins,” a real cat whisperer.
“You don’t pick a cat,” he purrs. “The cat picks you.”
But one last mid-thunderstorm emergency trip to his new high-rise, “the second tallest building in North America,” puts Brand in a coma and his mind in that of Mister Fuzzpants, the pet he’s bought for his kid.
Only Perkins can talk to him in feline form. And he’s got just one line of advice, and it’s not “How do I get OUT of this?”
“‘How did I get INTO this?’ Keep asking it.”
It took five credited screenwriters to figure out ways for the Tom cat to try and communicate who he is to his grieving second wife (Garner), daughter (Malina Weissman), if not his adult son from his first marriage (Robbie Amell) trying to fend off a treacherous company vice president (Mark Consuelos) who caused Tom’s accident and is now trying to take over the company. You’d think the old jazz number “Kitten on the Keys” would be an easy out, but touch-screen computers aren’t exactly cat paw friendly.
Hines plays the snippy, tippling first wife.
“Scotch, chicken soup for grief!”
That’s something she had in common with Tom, because sure enough, as a cat he makes a bee-line for his liquor cabinet and gets cat-drunk, first chance he gets.
So we’ve got an attempted murder, a wife signing a DNR waiver (because children need to know what “Do Not Resuscitate” means), hints of suicide, alcohol abuse and kitty littering, all in one movie.
But truthfully, as crass as it is, I’ve seen worse.
It aims low and young, an attempt at making the big screen version of any one of a million cat videos that have blown up the Internet. The sea of real cats (and a couple of Jack Russell terriers) along with the digital help it takes to make cats do outrageous things on camera give it small child appeal.
And at least it’s mercifully short. Five screenwriters, a director who knows his way around comedy and an Oscar winning cast don’t add up to much, in this case.
MPAA Rating:PG for thematic elements, language and some rude humor
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Malina Weissman, Christopher Walken, Cheryl Hines, Mark Consuelos
Credits: Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, script by Matt Allen, Dan Antoniazzi, Gwyn Lurie, Ben Shiffrin, Caleb Wilson. A EuropaCorp USA release
Running time: 1:25.