A nine-point review of 'Nine Lives'

Posted August 7, 2016

“NINE LIVES” — 1½ stars — Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Christopher Walken, Cheryl Hines, Mark Consuelos; PG (thematic elements, language and some rude humor); in general release

1. “Nine Lives” is the story of how a wealthy New York developer named Tom Brand (played by Kevin Spacey) gets stuck inside the body of a cat. When we meet Brand, he is a selfish egomaniac who is more interested in debating the height of his new office tower than taking calls from his wife or getting birthday presents for his daughter. But while dealing with his new (literal) shortcomings, Brand presumably will obtain a deeper appreciation for the truly important things in life.

2. “Nine Lives” is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, the man behind Will Smith’s “Men in Black” films, as well as the “Addams Family” movies in the early 1990s. His quirky, fantasy-style hand is apparent in “Nine Lives,” which has the effect of elevating the film’s mediocre material, but it also leaves you wishing he’d taken it further.

3. Brand’s wife, Lara, is played by Jennifer Garner, who also got some experience with the well-worn identity-crisis genre in 2004’s “13 Going on 30.” Combined with her appearance in “Miracles from Heaven” earlier this year, she seems to be cutting a path into family-friendly filmmaking.

4. Cheryl Hines plays Madison, Brand’s ex-wife and mother to his beleaguered son David (Robbie Amell). David works for Brand’s company and is trying to fend off his co-worker’s attempt to sell his father’s business out from under him. But Hines is one of the few highlights of the film, somehow channeling the angst of her divorce into a nonchalant wit that further underscores how much of a pill Brand is.

5. Christopher Walken plays Felix Perkins, the pet shop owner/”cat whisperer” who is behind the movie's mysterious goings-on. Walken’s quirky, creepy deadpan delivery always makes things better, even if he doesn’t necessarily make them good.

6. The thrust of “Nine Lives” is the comic potential of listening to Kevin Spacey’s voiceover while watching an often-CGI rendered cat perform various pratfalls. It rarely delivers. But what makes the effect strangely compelling is the decision to add random cat screeches to Spacey’s dialogue.

7. “Nine Lives” is meant to blend a positive message with some zany cat antics, but a complicated plot about Brand’s business bogs down the story so much that the little kids who would most appreciate the film will more likely be bored with it. (At least that’s what I took from the small child who spent half the movie running around the theater laughing instead of watching anything on the screen.)

8. While the film is too sophisticated for young children, older audiences (both older children and adults) will likely dismiss it for being too juvenile. Sadly, “Nine Lives” lives in an unfortunate audience-free no man’s land.

9. “Nine Lives” does harbor a sweet, family-friendly message, for what it’s worth. It’s extremely predictable, though, and far too much of a cliché to generate more than a mild reaction. With a little more from Sonnenfeld and Walken, “Nine Lives” might have been a fun sleeper; as is, it’s forgettable.

"Nine Lives" is rated PG for thematic elements, language and some rude humor; running time: 87 minutes.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who appeared weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" from 2013 to 2016. He also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at


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