The only thing more shocking than the fact that Nine Lives was written by an actual human being rather than a studio-designed algorithm is that whoever wrote it felt like it needed castration jokes, a euthanasia debate and implied suicide in order to appeal to children. Likely to be the worst theatrical release of 2016, this depressing experience in chastising its audience will have viewers begging for Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix venture as a palate cleanser.
Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is a Donald Trump-esque business honcho who, naturally enough, neglects his daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman) and wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) as a result. At the behest of eccentric pet shop owner Felix Perkins (Christopher Walken), however, Brand ends up trapped in the body of the cat he bought for his daughter’s birthday, and has a week to make right with his family or remain trapped behind the fur forever more.
Nine Lives is helmed by Men in Black’s Emmy-winning, DGA-winning director Barry Sonnenfeld (he also won a Razzie for Wild Wild West, but we’ll brush that under the carpet for now), written by a committee of five scribes and stars actors who have collectively won three Oscars and two Golden Globes. It is probably the reason why the terrorists us, and about as cynical as Hollywood has dared stoop in recent memory; drink in the fact that this is a real, honest-to-God movie rather than an SNL skit or South Park parody.
Children may giggle at the silliness of it all, yet there’s a genuinely disturbing tenor to the movie that’s not child-appropriate at all; adult gags that don’t even have the courtesy to be funny, and a third-act suicide bait-and-switch that may be among the most inappropriate plot threads ever committed to a major Hollywood children’s movie. The boner-hat from Mike Myers’ ill-advised The Cat in the Hat seems positively milquetoast by comparison.
Everyone’s earning a payday here in rather transparent fashion, and it’s only really Walken who walks away with his dignity mostly unscathed thanks to his signature eccentricity, as well as the fact that he gets to say “poopy box”. Jennifer Garner is basically so sweet and lovely it’s hard to hate her, though she’s tap-dancing on the line of embarrassment, while Spacey gleefully soaks up the lion’s share, even if his mug only graces the screen for around 20 minutes and the rest of his dialogue was no doubt recorded in an air-conditioned booth over a relaxed weekend.
If Nine Lives doesn’t sweep the Razzies next year, then we truly are headed for spiritual and artistic Armageddon in the coming months. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Nine Lives is in cinemas now