Kevin Spacey has had a glittering career, with a string of gripping performances in critically acclaimed movies now topped off with the starring role in Netflix’s excellent House of Cards. But in every career, there is at least one moment, or several in Adam Sandler’s case, which makes you wonder what made the actor accept that role. Nine Lives had people everywhere scratching their heads over Spacey’s casting, and yet this casting is exactly what makes the film intriguing and sort-of-bearable.
Now, you may well be wondering (and not unreasonably so) what right a film about a cat has being on a website about sci-fi. But did I mention that Kevin Spacey is in a cat’s body? Yes, that’s the premise of the film. Science-fiction is about dealing with unusual concepts that would not be feasible in the constraints of our reality, and as far as we know, it is not possible for a human’s consciousness to be implanted within a cat’s body. Also, Kevin Spacey has a very sci-fi name, so there’s that too.
Spacey isn’t the only star to attach their name to this project, as he drags Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken with him down the rabbit hole. Spacey plays a pretty reprehensible business tycoon whose character has drawn parallels with a certain president. He will not stop at any length to further the cause of his business, and that includes spending time with his wife and daughter.
It’s his daughter’s birthday, and his daughter wants a cat. Kevin Spacey doesn’t want his daughter to have a cat, but eventually he caves and decides to buy her a cat. Then, in a totally natural progression, Kevin Spacey becomes the cat. How does this happen? Christopher Walken is playing some sort of magician/pet shop owner, and he decides that Spacey should spend less time focused on business machinations and more time licking himself, so he makes him a cat. Actually, the film is about Spacey realising that family is important and there is a right way to do business, and it manages to reach this conclusion in a finale that just about straddles ludicrousness with touching moments.
However, this film is lucky that it has more than nine lives, as I can think of at least ten scenes that would have been sufficient for me to stop watching if Kevin Spacey wasn’t playing a man stuck in a cat’s body. “Nine lives” has become an accepted phrase in society, as whenever anyone gets away with anything lucky then they are deemed to be catlike in their mortality. In fact, the phrase permeates our culture, from giving titles to movies to featuring as the name of one of the mFortune slots that requires no deposit to play, featuring mice multipliers and a feline-themed mini-game. We may never know if cats do actually have nine lives, but they are lucky enough to always land on their feet.
For fans of cats, the one that Kevin Spacey sort of plays is very sweet and fluffy. Admittedly Spacey’s character takes advantage of the freedom of being a cat by using an unpleasant person’s handbag to do unpleasant things in. The cat/Kevin Spacey also gets drunk as he struggles to come to terms with his predicament. But in the end, the heartwarming denouement might be enough to save your experience of the film and banish the odd cat stunts and inevitable jokes from your memory.
I am unable to sugar-coat my final conclusion, mainly because the makers of this film have stolen all of the sugar; there are a lot of parts of this film that are nearly unwatchable. The keyword there is “nearly”, as the very concept of this film is its redeeming feature and a reason to power through to the end. Kevin Spacey is in a cat’s body!