FilmDrunk

Everything That Happens In ‘Nine Lives,’ As Described By The Critics Who Sat Through It

A few years back, I noticed that the more ridiculous a movie is, the more critics have a tendency to just describe the plot exactly as it happened, as if the ridiculousness of a bad movie is so self-evident that it requires no analysis, only presentation. Based on that observation, I gave myself a challenge: try to recreate the plot of a film I haven’t seen beat for beat, using nothing but summary from reviews (no analysis!).

So it was, Plot Recreated with Reviews was born. Thing is, it’s only really entertaining if the movie itself is truly ridiculous (more than just dull or hackneyed or silly: weirder). A movie like that only comes along every so often. Nine Lives fits the bill.

A concept that began as a French EuropaCorp exec’s idea for a quirky, “Woody Allen-esque” film aimed at adults (and written that way by its first two hired gun screenwriters), about a businessman who gets turned into a cat, was eventually inherited by a different Europa exec who thought it should be exactly what the guy who came up with the original premise swore it wasn’t: a family comedy. The first exec died in May, but the cinematic Edsel he set in motion hit theaters this past weekend, boasting the unlikely pedigree of Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld and Kevin Spacey, and no less than five credited screenwriters (it’s not their fault… it’s not their fault…). It clocked in at less than 90 minutes and didn’t screen for critics (the poor souls below had to either finagle their way into the premiere or see it on their own dime), sure signs of a studio trying to cut their losses and move on.

In any case, without further ado, here it is, the plot of Nine Lives, as written by the critics who sat through it (chapter headings my own).

THE SETUP

“Kevin Spacey plays Tom Brand, a Donald Trump-like New York real estate titan so obsessed with building the tallest, longest skyscraper in America…” (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)

“…that he throws a snit fit when it appears that an edifice located in Chicago might prevent him from having the tallest phallic symbol in the Northern Hemisphere.” (Susan Wloszczyna, RogerEbert.com)

“A flashy business magnate who is cut from the same cloth as Richard Branson, (NYTimes) Tom is introduced as he skydives to work one morning.” (David Ehrlich, Indiewire)

“He neglects his second wife (Jennifer Garner), whose calls he refuses to answer during work hours, and his young daughter (Melina Weissman), who pines for a pet cat.” (Nigel M. Smith, The Guardian)

“His daughter and wife are reduced to spending time with him through watching his press conferences.” (Matthew Goudreau, The Young Folks)

“’I hate cats,’ Brand scoffs at the suggestion. ‘I don’t need another thing to feed.’” (The Guardian)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpxJFPMlFXY

THE HIGH CONCEPT

“Fortunately for the little girl, the one thing her dad hates more than cats is wasting time thinking of creative ways to make his daughter happy, so…” (Indiewire)

“…on the night of his daughter’s birthday, Tom visits a shady cat shop owned by Christopher Walken.” (The Young Folks)

“He finally gets her the cat she’s always wanted for her birthday, from the mysterious Purrkins Pet Shop.” (Katie Walsh, The Los Angeles Times)

“As the proprietor of Purrkins cat store (no other pets, just pussies), his character – Felix Perkins – is the only human who can interact with Brand’s feline form.” (Matt Donato, We Got This Covered)

“After the scene between the two Oscar-winning actors is finished and Tom has departed, before the sadness of knowing these two might never be in a real movie together hits you, Perkins says to the pets in his shop, ‘OK, cats. Let’s do this!’ ‘This,’ as it turns out, is a curse or something.” (Eric D Snider)

“In order for the transmutation to occur, Tom has to stand on the roof of the new tower he’s constructing (oh, there’s an incredibly asinine plot thread about a power struggle at his company), be hit by a bolt of lightning, plummet off the side of the skyscraper, snag his leg on some stray equipment, get flung back inside, and then spirited away from his comatose body.” (Indiewire)

“Tom ends up in a coma and his consciousness ends up in the cat.” (The Los Angeles Times)

THE SECOND ACT

“Alarmingly, no one in Brand’s life, including his co-workers and family, seems to care that he’s laid up on life support. The son from his first marriage (Robbie Amell), who works for him, appears more intent on managing the business than monitoring his father’s health. While his wife and daughter barely shed a tear before shifting all of their focus over to the trouble-making addition.” (The Guardian)

“Lara and Rebecca take Mr. Fuzzypants home, and it only takes them a day to remember that cats need food, water, and a litter box.” (Eric D. Snider)

“His adult son, David (Robbie Amell), works for the company but doesn’t have Dad’s respect because he’s afraid to go skydiving with him.” (Eric D Snider)

While Tom’s human body lies in a coma, the boardroom of his company attempts to scheme power away from Tom and his son. (The Young Folks)

HIJINKS

“Feline hijinks ensue as Mr. Fuzzypants attempts to convince his wife and daughter that he’s actually Tom and tries to stop Ian from selling his company (even though it clearly makes more financial sense to go public and stop the skyscraper nonsense).” (The Los Angeles Times)

“It’s not fun at all to watch a poorly animated cat try to open a whiskey bottle or struggle to hold a pen, all while Spacey lobs insults at his ex-wife and says things like, ‘No thanks, I have the rug,’ when Garner ushers him toward the litter box.” (Devan Coggan, Entertainment Weekly)

“‘Seriously?’ Spacey groans, contemplating his paws.” (Amy Nicholson, MTV News)

“…plenty of out-of-place ex-wife-hating barbs; groan-worthy feline puns…” (John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter)

“…Kevin-Spacey-cat pees in handbags.” (Matt Donato, We Got This Covered)

When Garner’s character sees Mr. Fuzzypants run amok, she asks her cookie-cutter stepson if they make MRIs for cats. His response? ‘You mean CAT scans?’” (Indiewire)

“Within the span of five minutes, Brand goes from attempting to write a note to downing a fifth of scotch…. as a cat. We also get no fewer than four scenes of a cat urinating somewhere outside of a litter box.” (The Young Folks)

“One security guard moronically tasers another security guard in the leg, while attempting to snipe Mr. Fuzzypants in mid-air.” (We Got This Covered)

“…two cat-piss jokes, two slow-motion sequences of people tumbling over while trying to catch Tom in Mister Fuzzypants form…” (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club)

“Five writers to have Mr. Fuzzypants bounce off an apartment entrance awning like a trampoline. FIVE WRITERS TO WRITE DIALOGUE FOR SPACEY NO DEEPER THAN, ‘HEY, HELP ME! I’M A CAT!’” (We Got This Covered)

“Famous Internet cats like Lil Bub, Waffles, and Hamilton actually make cameos.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“See him leap onto counters and up walls, inch along the ledges of a Fifth Avenue high-rise, and fall flat on his feline back!” (Variety)

MESSAGE

“Stuck at home, Tom learns the value of family and the struggles they’ve gone through once he’s finally around.” (The Los Angeles Times)

“Tom has to reevaluate his priorities, connect with his wife and daughter, let David know he’s proud of him, AND save his company from an unscrupulous board member (Mark Consuelos), all while being a cat. And he must do this before his comatose body dies, or he’ll be feline forever.” (Eric D Snider)

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN

“We hear Kevin Spacey’s voice, but the other characters just hear meowing. Except for Perkins, the cat whisperer. He hears Mr. Fuzzypants in plain English.” (Eric D Snider)

“Because his character is a ‘cat whisperer,’ he spends the majority of his appearances speaking directly to the cat.” (TheYoungFolks)

“This means you get to watch The Walken carry out civil conversations with a hissing animal, as paws swipe and Spacey frustratingly grumbles.” (We Got This Covered)

“I would not be surprised if this is an actual skill possessed by Christopher Walken.” (Eric D Snider)

“Oh, and he indeed gets a short dance number.” (Scott Mendelson, Forbes)

CHINTZY CONSTRUCTION

“The cinematography is a green screen nightmare.” (The Los Angeles Times)

“[Mr. Fuzzypants’] little cat mouth never opens, even when meowing.” (The A.V. Club)

“..small, cramped sets and shortage of background extras.” (The A.V. Club)

“…the entire Manhattan skyline seems to have been created on an iPad (but not, like, one of those fancy iPad Pros, or anything).” (Indiewire)

“Spacey’s glued-on hairpiece, given prominent placement by Sonnenfeld’s tendency to frame the actor front and center early on, isn’t much more convincing.” (The A.V. Club)

“In an attempt to create the image of multiple cats in one room, the special effects department just copied-and-pasted footage of the same cat.” (Entertainment Weekly)

TONE PROBLEMS

“Brightly colored production design is spiked with jokes about castration and alcoholism, marital infidelity and child labor.” (Dave White, The Wrap)

“We are told that, ‘Cats don’t care if you live or die.’” (RogerEbert.com)

“It’s a comedy pitched at families that climaxes with a supposed suicide attempt.” (The Guardian)

“And, oh, how the kindergarten crowd will chortle at the lame sight gag involving a ‘Hang in There, Baby’ poster that hails from the early ‘70s.” (RogerEbert.com)

CONCLUSION

“The Nine Lives title doesn’t even come into play during Mr. Fuzzypants’s predicament, as only one life is ever needed.” (We Got This Covered)

“It’s also best that you not contemplate the reality the film establishes: Perkins is an omnipotent wizard who can magic you into a cat’s body to teach you a lesson, and keep you there forever if you fail to learn it. He alone decides. The cats in his shop are the damned souls of the people he’s done this to before – making him exactly like Ursula the sea witch, except that Ursula’s victims willingly made bargains with her. Perkins just sucker-punches you.” (Eric D Snider)

“The first name typically listed in a film’s closing credits is that of the director. Nine Lives breaks that custom. Instead, that honor goes to the film’s two cat trainers.” (The Guardian)

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