[Screen It]


(2016) (Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner) (PG)

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Comedy: A workaholic millionaire is rendered comatose; becomes trapped inside the body of his family's cat; and learns valuable life lessons about his wife, son, and daughter.
Tom Brand (KEVIN SPACEY) is a corporate mogul and one of the richest men in Manhattan. His current ambition is to build the tallest building in North America. But he is challenged by an upstart rival, Ian Cox (MARK CONSUELOS), who wants to take the company public, and hampered by a son, David (ROBBIE AMELL), who has shown little promise for following in his footsteps.

Tom works so hard that he often neglects his beautiful second wife, Lara (JENNIFER GARNER), and cute 11-year-old daughter, Rebecca (MELINA WEISSMAN). On her birthday, he tries to make it up to his little girl by buying her a cat from a mysterious pet shop owner named Felix Perkins (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN). But when he does a header off his building and miraculously doesn't die, he finds himself trapped inside the body of the cat while his body lies comatose in a hospital bed.

He comes to learn that his only chance of getting his former life back is to reconnect with his wife and child even as Ian is trying to steal the company out from under him and his ex-wife, Madison (CHERYL HINES), and her young daughter, Nicole (TALITHA BATEMAN), hang around Lara and Rebecca and talk bad about him.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
For movies that were not screened for the press prior to release, we provide only a few paragraphs of critical analysis.

In the lead up to my paying to see "Nine Lives," a few friends and colleagues have asked me, "What is Kevin Spacey thinking? A talking cat movie?! Why would he pick such a dumb project to star in between seasons of 'House of Cards?'" And the answer is ... well ... pretty darn simple. CASH!!! Voicing a talking anything in films is quite possibly the easiest money to be made in this world folks!

Spacey probably got paid at least $1 million to voice Tom the Cat in "Nine Lives." I'm probably underestimating, too. He very likely got compensated a lot more. And I can't blame him. For a million buckaroos, I would voice just about anything in any film for anyone on this Earth. Does Hillary or Trump or whoever the Green Party is running need a narrator for their next campaign video? For seven figures, I'm their man. Oh yeah. I'm with her ... we'll make American great again ... it IS easy bein' Green! Just show me the money.

To be fair, Spacey does bookend the film as Tom Brand, a corporate mogul who runs a major conglomerate that has interests in construction, airlines, soft drinks, and so forth. He's built an empire. But he's done so at the expense of his first wife (Cheryl Hines) and grown son (Robbie Amell). He's now neglecting his second wife (Jennifer Garner) and 11-year-old daughter (Melina Weissman). He at least tries to placate the latter by buying her a cat from weirdo pet shop owner Felix Perkins (Christopher Walken). But when he accidentally does a header off the roof of his Midtown Manhattan skyscraper and miraculously ends up comatose, he becomes trapped in the body of the cat and has to reconnect with his family from the litter box in order to regain his humanity (literally and figuratively).

The film is yet another entry in the "Dad, You're a Schmuck Because You Work Too Hard to Give Your Family a Good Life, So You Have to Be Taught a Life Lesson" movies. I've seen probably 50 of these things since I began reviewing films two decades ago. This one is, of course, well meaning. And I like the extra layer of giving the main character a grown son to reconnect with from a first marriage AND a young daughter to connect with from his current marriage.

But the film is dull, inert, and has maybe two laughs in the entire 86-minute running time. I actually think director Barry Sonnenfeld and his team of five (!) screenwriters were going for an extended Donald Trump parallel at some point early in the production. Brand is an arrogant and larger-than-life figure who puts his name and likeness on all of his buildings and on every product he creates. He has multiple wives, multiple kids from the different marriages, and is based in New York. But as Trump grew in popularity on the campaign trail, all concerned likely toned that part of the film down considerably to the point where Brand is just another bland, workaholic hubby and dad who needs to be taught "what's really important." Folks, what's really important is that you avoid this flick! I give it a 3 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed August 4, 2016 / Posted August 5, 2016

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