Film & TV

Is ‘Nine Lives’ running out of chances?

In the world of entertainment, you sometimes have good films, bad films and sometimes even ugly films. However, occasionally you have a film which can transcend these three categories; a film which makes you so physically repulsed at the screen, one you can’t think about without getting angry and steals precious minutes of your life that you will never get back. Barry Sonnenfield’s latest directorial effort ‘Nine Lives’ slots comfortably into this fourth group and is consequently one of the worst films I have ever seen.

‘Nine’ Lives’ is a “film”, and I use that term very loosely, that stars Kevin Spacey, Jennifer garner and Christopher Walken. It tells the story of an inattentive, business minded father who, after neglecting his family, is put into the body of a cat to teach him a lesson alongside a daft subplot about having the tallest building in New York City. All the names included above are competent and acclaimed people in the industry which makes it completely baffling why something like ‘Nine Lives’ was made.

There is so much that is fundamentally wrong with this film it’s truly challenging to find a place to start. In regards to positives there isn’t a lot to say. It technically succeeds at being a film; the action takes place within frame, it’s put together so it roughly makes sense and contains a basic level of sound editing.

So, let’s delve into the negatives and right off the bat, from the first shot, the CGI is noticeably bad. There is a horrible-looking zoom that ends up on Kevin Spacey’s character preparing for a skydive that looks like it’s straight out of Icelandic kid’s TV show ‘Lazy Town.’ All of the CGI backdrops in the film are rendered so poorly that it makes it easy to tell which scenes were shot with real sets and when they’re clearly acting in front of a green-screen.

However, the worst moments of CGI are associated with the one thing this film should get right: the cats. Although not quite reaching the lows of ‘Birdemic,’ the CGI is so obvious you start to wonder where the budget of the film actually went. I’m not exactly saying this film should have been a visual spectacle but, when a small indie film like Ex Machina can create life-like CGI for around half the budget, ‘Nine Lives’ fails completely in providing any sense of believability.

I imagine real animals are relatively difficult to work with, meaning it would be easier to replace them with computer generated images as it offers you freedom to do what you want. Although there are some shots where they evidently use real cats, it makes the many moments where they use CGI cats stick out like a sore thumb. The cats look about as real as the humans in 2007’s animated adaptation of ‘Beowulf’.

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The story is full of logical flaws. One glaring example is when Jenifer Garner and her daughter bring the cat, that they don’t know is Kevin Spacey, into the house for the first time and simply let it run wild. They don’t feed it, give it water, put down a litter box or anything until the next morning. I’m not one to read into the mind of a cat, like Christopher Walken’s portrayal of a cat whisperer, but I’m fairly certain that any pet being put in a brand new home is going to be feeling displaced, confused and scared. Therefore, why do they immediately abandon their new pet to roam around the house and go straight to bed?

One can make the argument that as the cat is Kevin Spacey it doesn’t need looking after and it knows the way around the house. But the characters are unaware of this. What they have done is leave a potentially terrified animal with no resources in a brand new environment. It’s unclear whether this is poor editing or if the characters are just terrible people.

There is also a scene towards the end which shows a security guard trying to taser a cat whilst the other guard films it in the hope that the video will go viral. Maybe I’m missing the point here. Maybe this is a comic moment in the universe of the film but I’m inclined to believe that a cat being electrified isn’t funny.

That leads me onto another problem with the film: its audience. This movie’s marketing and the finished product are too childish and wacky to entertain most adult audiences, as well as not being able to execute a single joke and elicit any laughs. On the other hand, I can’t see young children enjoying it either. There are too many dull business meetings as well as a strangely unnecessarily dark moment of attempted suicide for it to be suited for child audiences. At the end of the day it’s hard to know who this film is really for. Even if you love cats, this movie will have you up in arms and probably hating them by the end of the runtime.

I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the film. I could go into detail about the lack of tone, the terrible acting, the annoying stock sound of a cat that they use over and over again, the dumbed-down dialogue, the fact that taking away a floor of a building so you can build on top of it to ensure it’s the tallest building in NYC makes no sense, the poorly written characters who don’t make any rational decisions, the horrendous voice-acting and, for a supposed comedy, the lack of a punchline to be found anywhere.

Having seen enough “so-bad-they’re-good” movies such as ‘The Room,’ ‘Troll 2’ and ‘Birdemic,’ I can safely say ‘Nine Lives’ doesn’t belong in this category. It isn’t funny, intentionally or unintentionally. This movie is a waste of ninety minutes of your life that you will never get back. To link my eyes with a quote from the film, “meow, that hurt.”

Verdict: One of the worst films I have ever seen. ‘Nine Lives’ is a technically inept film which wastes a prolific cast and provides not a single moment of comedy. A film which seems to have no audience and will leave you scratching your head asking what on earth you just saw.

Dan Lyons

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