Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken flounder in this lightweight, ill-advised bodyswap cat comedy
The continued popularity of cat videos is the only possible explanation for the existence of Nine Lives, a bland comedy for children about a cat-hating businessman who gets trapped inside a feline called Mr Fuzzypants. The premise is as light as they come; throw in slumming heavyweight actors like Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken and the result is better suited to the bottom of a litter tray than the inside of a cinema.
Tom Brand (Spacey) is a Donald Trump-style entrepreneur so preoccupied with the building of a personally branded skyscraper that he forgets his daughter's birthday party. Challenged by his wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) to provide an 'extraordinary gift' for Rebecca (Malina Weissman), Brand lazily attempts to buy a moggy from Felix Perkins (Walken), who teaches him a lesson by swapping him into the body of a cat. Brand is a determined character, determined not to let the indignities of being a domestic pet hold him back, which sets up all sorts of slapstick as Mr Fuzzypants attempts to maintain Brand's corporate success.
The life-lessons are painfully obvious from the start of Barry Sonnenfeld's bright-looking but dim-witted romp, although the convoluted fantasy-world of cat-possession flattens any potential for actual meaning. The central problem with Nine Lives is that cat videos are funny because they're real; using computer-generated cats feels like the simulation of comedy, and Spacey's phoned in performance doesn't help. Sitting in a dubbing studio snarling 'Seriously?' and 'Nailed it!" over faked footage of frolicking cats surely marks a low point in Spacey's illustrious career, although Walken seems to enjoy playing the mystical 'cat whisperer' in the manner of his equally deadpan Mouse Hunt performance.
With its ridiculous premise, heavy sentiment and sub-par effects, Nine Lives is a real cat-astrophe for all concerned.
Wide release from Fri 19 Aug.