Is VVS Films the place where bad ideas go to gestate? Is it where poor choices by directors are nurtured and good actors and actresses with accolades in their rearview go to put a black mark on their career? This may seem like harsh jabs at a company that has released some films I’ve enjoyed this year, like Hardcore Henry and Demolition, but they also released Dirty Grandpa at the start of this year; a movie that was a dark moment in the life of the great Robert De Niro and something the two-time Academy Award winner should be ashamed of having on his resume. Now Oscar and Golden Globe winner Kevin Spacey sees his career take a baseball-sized lump of crap to its luster with Nine Lives, a family film that has so many thematic issues and a premise that makes you want to ram your head into the wall.
This isn’t to say that Spacey hasn’t participated in crap before, as well as the before mentioned De Niro. But while Bobby’s hits have come sporadically over the last fifteen years or so, Spacey is generally pretty consistent. His track work in the family accessible department is a bit shaky with the only content success being A Bug’s Life and yes, we should all forget the yuletide awfulness of Fred Claus, but he is arguably the best theatrical Lex Luthor we’ve seen aside from, you know, the rest of the movie around him. So, why Nine Lives and why is Men In Black and Get Shorty director Barry Sonnenfeld playing in this litter box of turds?
The film has Spacey playing Tom Brand, a major business CEO who built his company from the ground up. Foremost in his mind is the brand new tower for his company that is supposed to be the tallest in the western hemisphere barring that another company in Chicago doesn’t beat him to that accomplishment. In all of his self-obsession and megalomania, he has also neglected his wife (Jennifer Garner), who he is never home to see, and his son David (Robbie Amell), who he treats like another underprivileged employee. Worse than that, Tom never spends any time with his eleven-year-old daughter Rebecca, who only wants two things on her birthday, her father and a pet cat.
Rushing home, angry about the building possibly coming up short in the height competition, Tom comes across a pet store run by an eccentric shopkeeper named Felix Perkins (Christopher Walken). Rudely, Tom purchases the first cat he comes across but is immediately called back to the office by his second in charge, Ian (Mark Consuelos). A shouting match on the top of the building leads to an accident, easily preventable by Ian that sends Tom and the cat falling off the building and crashing into another room floors below. This puts Tom into a coma and his consciousness into the cat he had purchased and the only way out, according to Perkins the cat whisperer, is to be a good cat and earn the love of his family back.
This film is ridiculous, this premise is ridiculous and the fact that I just wrote out that whole premise makes me feel ridiculous too. I’m shocked that this film even got a green light but even more so, that it took five writers to make this film. All of the jokes are incredibly goofy and the tone is all over the place, which is odd given that it’s a film aimed at a family audience. There are themes of death, attempted murder, even suicide at one point and don’t get me started on an almost implied cat death. I should not have to constantly console my three-year-old in a G-rated film, telling her that it will all be OK. This is a “Kevin Spacey gets turned into a cat movie”, nothing’s OK.
There is nothing that I could salvage out of this film other than the overwhelming feeling that I had wasted my time. Christopher Walken seems to be at the stage of his career that he will take anything on. Hasn’t he already been that existence changing character in the Adam Sandler film, Click? Barry Sonnenfeld seems to sleepwalk through his direction of this film and there is nothing original or interesting to be found in this movie. The only merciful bullet point to grab on to is that the film is less than an hour and a half long but, really, how many cat food jokes and Tom’s cat form, Mister Fuzzypants, peeing in a purse can you take? This whole thing left me pretty defeated but, despite instances of tears, my kid was pretty into it. I wouldn’t read too much into that.
With another season of House of Cards most likely on the horizon, I doubt Kevin Spacey’s career will see any lag or head down a Kevin James like trajectory but I just wonder what he saw in this project or even the horrible script for that matter. Maybe it was the fact that most of the film is a voice-over performance for him and he could sit in the booth and smell the cheque he earned, which I hope smelled like a freshly coughed up hairball. I know that’s rough but I blame him for me having to tread through this garbage. Obviously, I give Nine Lives a one out of five.