Men in Black is one of my favorite big-budget comedies. It was witty, well-made, and most of all, memorable. However, director Barry Sonnenfeld decided that any future movies he made would be unmemorable and dim-witted. No exception was held to Nine Lives, a film whose production budget was more than Harvard tuition for eleven people and would make any sane person want to set themselves on fire.
The film actually starts off kind of okay; Tom Brand, played by Kevin Spacey (who was probably blackmailed into being in this,) is the CEO of Firebrand, a company that basically acts as Tom’s outlet for his many aspirations, which includes building the tallest building in the United States. However, the film gets infinitely worse when he arrives home where we find out that his wife is played by Jennifer Garner, who, throughout the entire film, talks as if she’s providing the voice for a GPS. A series of events transpire that result in Tom buying a cat from Christopher Walken (yes his character has a name, but you’ll be calling him Christopher Walken anyway) for his daughter’s birthday. However, before he can give the cat to his daughter, he is led to the top of his giant building by Kelly Ripa’s husband (again, you’ll be calling him that,) where he is struck by lightning and placed inside the body of the cat. Tom is told that in order to return to his human form, he must “be a good dad” to both his young daughter, but also his older son (played by Robbie Amell,) who is trying to preserve Tom’s visions for the company against Kelly Ripa’s husband’s demands for change.
Yes, this film has the same basic premise as The Shaggy Dog and the movies it was adapted from, but unlike The Shaggy Dog, Nine Lives has no real comedic moments. The problem stems from the fact that, unlike in The Shaggy Dog, there’s no real human/animal duality. Tom-cat never really acts like a human in a cat’s body, but rather like a sentient cat. The most we get out of the human side of Tom-cat are a scene where he gets drunk off of scotch and another where he pisses in his ex-wife’s purse. Yes, this movie is rated PG. The other problem is that the script pay very little attention to the fact that there is a person in a cat’s body, and instead takes a good chunk off time discussing Tom’s marital troubles and the inner workings of his company, the latter of which culminates with Tom’s son jumping off of a building. Again, this movie was made for kids.
This would all be passable if the film were made competently. The film is paced so poorly that scenes end a full minute before they feel like they should. Tom’s entire family is clueless about the fact that the patriarch of their family is stuck in their cat’s body, even after he writes sentences out of magnets and his wife points out that the cat’s behavior is the same as Tom’s. Scenes that take place in places as simple as the exterior of an apartment building on Eighth Avenue appear to have been green-screened. Worst of all, the characters are completely one-dimensional, unmemorable and unlikable, which a bad thing to do in a kid’s film.
This film is a waste of money and a waste of time. The only people I can recommend this to are blind-deaf children, who would probably have a better time feeling the DVD case than any other person would have watching it. Barry, if you’re reading this, do what you do best: holding the camera for more creative people.