Director Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring Kevin Spacey, Christopher Walken, Jennifer Garner
Released 12th December
Once upon a time there was a guy in the movies called Barry Sonnenfeld. He had a well above average CV: director of cinematography on Blood Simple, When Harry Met Sally and Misery, then director of The Addams Family, Get Shorty and Men In Black. But TV came calling and he only occasionally returned to the big screen. After Nine Lives, the kindest thing all round would be to never let him loose on a film again.
Amazingly, I made it as far as the end credits on the DVD, which is released on Monday, and they indicate he might not need telling. Usually, they’d start with the director. Not here. The first credit is for the cat trainers. Are you kidding me? None of the moggies, real or CGI, behave like any real one I’ve ever seen so I doubt the trainers had much to do. And the fact that Sonnenfeld’s name doesn’t come top of the list speaks for itself.
Before you ask, I am a cat person. I’m also a huge fan of Kevin Spacey, so the combination of the two in a film should mean it has my name all over it. I may be a fan, but I’m not an indiscriminate one and, when I wasn’t wincing or checking my watch, I kept wondering what on earth possessed him to agree to be in this. He plays a narcissistic business mogul, neglectful of both his wife and daughter and a nightmare to work for. When his daughter’s birthday comes along, he buys her what she’s asked for, a cat. But a freak accident, combined with a bit of magic from the mysterious pet shop owner Mr Perkins (Christopher Walken), means he finds himself inside the body of the cat – and he’s stuck there until he learns to be a nicer human being.
Yeah, yeah, all very Dickensian and all very contrived. Potentially, there could have been some laughs, but they all passed by unnoticed. I didn’t even raise a smile, perhaps because I was distracted by just how bad the film was. How Mr Fuzzypants – that’s the cat’s name – has a collar with a mind of its own. Sometimes it’s round his neck, and sometimes it’s not. How the special effects are so glaringly obvious you question what on earth its reported $30 million budget was spent on. And why it was obviously made by people who knew nothing about cats.
Admittedly, Spacey in human form spends most of the film in a coma, appearing mainly in voice form only. Just as well, because when he’s not being a cat, he looks like he can’t wait to grab the pay cheque and get the hell out. Walken doesn’t have that option as cat the whisperer, but perhaps he has the right attitude. He clearly, and quite rightly, doesn’t take his role or the film in the slightest bit seriously and there’s always a hint of him being close to hysterical laughter. Unlikely for Walken, I know, but it was either that, or he sucked hard on a lemon before delivering each of his lines.
I won’t rant on. Very simply, Nine Lives is just bad. In the traditional sense. Presumably, it’s been released on DVD to cash in on the stocking filler market. But, if you dislike somebody that much, just save yourself the money and buy them nothing.
Nine Lives is released on DVD on Monday, 12 December – not that it’s worth your money. It’s also reviewed – briefly – on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 15 December.