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If a comedy doesn't include a solitary laugh, does that mean that it's still a comedy?
That's just one of a myriad of philosophical questions I pondered in order to pass the time while I was subjected to Nine Lives; a comedy so void of inspiration, wit, and originality that you'll genuinely wonder if it's all just been a sick, elaborate joke by Hollywood to see if audiences will devour anything as long as it's just a little cute.
Let me make myself perfectly clear: There are literally zero laughs in Nine Lives. Not one. Nada. Zilch. Your screening will be such a vacuum of energy and mirth that it will genuinely get awkward in the cinema. Either Kevin Spacey went temporarily blind, dumb, or needs to fire his agent, because he takes the lead in Nine Lives as the head of huge corporation. He is such a nothing character that I've already forgotten his name, and I'm writing this review half an hour after the film finished, 45 minutes after I finally lost faith in cinema, and an hour after I genuinely considered suicide in order to end the pain.
Having become ensconced in work, Spacey's Tom Brand (I looked it up) decides to buy his daughter a cat for her birthday to prove his love for her. The funny thing is, though, Brand doesn't like cats. Lol. Get it? No. Uh oh.
Unfortunately for Brand, a near-death experience while he's holding onto the cat somehow moves his personality into the feline, while his empty vessel of a body ends up in a coma. Something that you'll wish you could fall in to escape the proceeding tedium. Only Christopher Walken's cat whisperer knows Brand is there, and how he can get out. The answer is love. Seriously. It made me want to go all Professor Frink on everyone involved in this creation.
But you must be thinking, 'Wait, surely with Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken involved Nine Lives has some redeeming qualities?' Well, I'm glad you asked that question. Because not only does Nine Lives feature the talents of Spacey and Walken, but Jennifer Garner and Cheryl Hines also star, while Barry Sonnenfeld directs. But rather than collaborating to salvage this rotten corpse of a movie, they just cover themselves in its guts and gore and play dead alongside it.
You can literally see everyone involved instantly giving up on Nine Lives in its opening seconds, as they quickly realize that not only is it a dud of an idea, but that its redundant script won't translate off the page and is inherently not cinematic. That's why there were five writers on Nine Lives, hardly any promotion, no press screenings, and why even cats -- the most self-assured animal there is -- will soon be embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with it.
You can also see the combined thought process of Nine Lives' jokes as they're thrown in front of you. Wouldn't it be funny if a human had to eat cat food? There's Kevin Spacey turning his nose up at a bowl of hideous, gluttonous glob. What about if you got drunk as a cat? Boom: there's a cat peeing on a rug. While obviously there are also the obligatory gags of a cat being chased by a dog, sneakily peeing into his ex-wife's handbag, and struggling to use technology, too.
Kevin Spacey is woefully miscast in the lead role. I'm not surprised he took the part, though, because it's a good gig. He's in the first 15 minutes of the film, then just has to provide a voiceover that -- for all intents and purposes -- sounds like it took 15 minutes for him to record. If he spent anymore time working on these attempted jokes, then he really should be ashamed that he couldn't come up with anything better.
Not only does Spacey lack the comedic chops to sell any of the quips, he sounds embarrassed and mortified to be making them, while he also doesn't haves the likable presence to make you root for his character of playfully laugh along with his dad jokes. Instead, his dry and sarcastic remarks make you think that he genuinely deserves his fate, and could learn a lesson or two from being a cat. Especially since his family seem a little too happy that he's in the coma. I mean, they are literally smiling when they return from the hospital after he's first been diagnosed.
Jennifer Garner is wholesome and sweet, while Christopher Walken is wacky and oddly wise, but they're not given the material to even remotely make their characters work or Nine Lives enjoyable. By the end, everyone looks guilty for being involved in a film that they all obviously know isn't good and has instead simply cost honest folk $15 and an hour and a half of their time. Community Service has been dolled out as a punishment for less.
It's not just the actors that are inept and inadequate, though. The editing is so haphazard that scenes just don't make sense. At one point the cat is able to fall down a 30-story building and then jump into a car in the same time that it takes Garner to open and close her front door. Meanwhile, Barry Sonnenfeld, the genuinely respected director behind The Addams Family, Men In Black, and Get Shorty, just phones it in, instead of trying to inject panache, energy or narrative cohesion.
There are so many shots of Spacey's cat falling down, loudly meowing, and looking silly trying to be human, that it becomes clear Nine Lives was Hollywood's attempt to cash in on the public's strange fascination with YouTube cat videos. As you'd expect, and can probably tell by my review, it fails. Badly.